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A.M. NO.

004-07-SC

November 21, 2000


RULE ON EXAMINATION OF A CHILD WITNESS

Section 1. Applicability of the Rule. - Unless otherwise provided, this Rule shall govern the examination of child
witnesses who are victims of crime, accused of a crime, and witnesses to crime. It shall apply in all criminal
proceedings and non-criminal proceedings involving child witnesses.
Section 2. Objectives. - The objectives of this Rule are to create and maintain an environment that will allow children
to give reliable and complete evidence, minimize trauma to children, encourage children to testify in legal
proceedings, and facilitate the ascertainment of truth.
Section 3. Construction of the Rule. - This Rule shall be liberally construed to uphold the best interests of the child
and to promote maximum accommodation of child witnesses without prejudice to the constitutional rights of the
accused.
Section 4. Definitions. (a) A "child witness" is any person who at the time of giving testimony is below the age of eighteen (18)
years. In child abuse cases, a child includes one over eighteen (18) years but is found by the court as
unable to fully take care of himself or protect himself from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, or
discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.
(b) "Child abuse" means physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, and criminal neglect as defined in
Republic Act No. 7610 and other related laws.
(c) "Facilitator" means a person appointed by the court to pose questions to a child.
(d) "Record regarding a child" or "record" means any photograph, videotape, audiotape, film, handwriting,
typewriting, printing, electronic recording, computer data or printout, or other memorialization, including any
court document, pleading, or any copy or reproduction of any of the foregoing, that contains the name,
description, address, school, or any other personal identifying information about a child or his family and that
is produced or maintained by a public agency, private agency, or individual.
(e) A "guardian ad litem" is a person appointed by the court where the case is pending for a child who is a
victim of, accused of, or a witness to a crime to protect the best interests of the said child.
(f) A "support person" is a person chosen by the child to accompany him to testify at or attend a judicial
proceeding or deposition to provide emotional support for him.
(g) "Best interests of the child" means the totality of the circumstances and conditions as are most congenial
to the survival, protection, and feelings of security of the child and most encouraging to his physical,
psychological, and emotional development. It also means the least detrimental available alternative for
safeguarding the growth and development of the child.
(h) "Developmental level" refers to the specific growth phase in which most individuals are expected to
behave and function in relation to the advancement of their physical, socio-emotional, cognitive, and moral
abilities.
(i) "In-depth investigative interview" or "disclosure interview" is an inquiry or proceeding conducted by duly
trained members of a multidisciplinary team or representatives of law enforcement or child protective
services for the purpose of determining whether child abuse has been committed.
Section 5. Guardian ad litem. -

(a) The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a child who is a victim of, accused of, or a witness to a
crime to promote the best interests of the child. In making the appointment, the court shall consider the
background of the guardian ad litem and his familiarity with the judicial process, social service programs,
and child development, giving preference to the parents of the child, if qualified. The guardian ad litem may
be a member of the Philippine Bar. A person who is a witness in any proceeding involving the child cannot
be appointed as a guardian ad litem.
(b) The guardian ad litem:
(1) Shall attend all interviews, depositions, hearings, and trial proceedings in which a child
participates;
(2) Shall make recommendations to the court concerning the welfare of the child;
(3) Shall have access to all reports, evaluations, and records necessary to effectively advocate for
the child, except privileged communications;
(4) Shall marshal and coordinate the delivery of resources and special services to the child;
(5) Shall explain, in language understandable to the child, all legal proceedings, including police
investigations, in which the child is involved;
(6) Shall assist the child and his family in coping with the emotional effects of crime and
subsequent criminal or non-criminal proceedings in which the child is involved;
(7) May remain with the child while the child waits to testify;
(8) May interview witnesses; and
(9) May request additional examinations by medical or mental health professionals if there is a
compelling need therefor.
(c) The guardian ad litem shall be notified of all proceedings but shall not participate in the trial. However, he
may file motions pursuant to sections 9, 10, 25, 26, 27 and 31(c). If the guardian ad litem is a lawyer, he may
object during trial that questions asked of the child are not appropriate to his developmental level.
(d) The guardian ad litem may communicate concerns regarding the child to the court through an officer of
the court designated for that purpose.
(e) The guardian ad litem shall not testify in any proceeding concerning any information, statement, or
opinion received from the child in the course of serving as a guardian ad litem, unless the court finds it
necessary to promote the best interests of the child.
(f) The guardian ad litem shall be presumed to have acted in good faith in compliance with his duties
described in sub-section (b).
Section 6. Competency. - Every child is presumed qualified to be a witness. However, the court shall conduct a
competency examination of a child, motu proprio or on motion of a party, when it finds that substantial doubt exists
regarding the ability of the child to perceive, remember, communicate, distinguish truth from falsehood, or appreciate
the duty to tell the truth in court.
(a) Proof of necessity. - A party seeking a competency examination must present proof of necessity of
competency examination. The age of the child by itself is not a sufficient basis for a competency
examination.

(b) Burden of proof. - To rebut the presumption of competence enjoyed by a child, the burden of proof lies on
the party challenging his competence.
(c) Persons allowed at competency examination. Only the following are allowed to attend a competency
examination:
(1) The judge and necessary court personnel;
(2) The counsel for the parties;
(3) The guardian ad litem;
(4) One or more support persons for the child; and
(5) The defendant, unless the court determines that competence can be fully evaluated in his
absence.
(d) Conduct of examination. - Examination of a child as to his competence shall be conducted only by the
judge. Counsel for the parties, however, can submit questions to the judge that he may, in his discretion, ask
the child.
(e) Developmentally appropriate questions. - The questions asked at the competency examination shall be
appropriate to the age and developmental level of the child; shall not be related to the issues at trial; and
shall focus on the ability of the child to remember, communicate, distinguish between truth and falsehood,
and appreciate the duty to testify truthfully.
(f) Continuing duty to assess competence. - The court has the duty of continuously assessing the
competence of the child throughout his testimony.
Section 7. Oath or affirmation. - Before testifying, a child shall take an oath or affirmation to tell the truth.
Section 8. Examination of a child witness. - The examination of a child witness presented in a hearing or any
proceeding shall be done in open court. Unless the witness is incapacitated to speak, or the question calls for a
different mode of answer, the answers of the witness shall be given orally.
The party who presents a child witness or the guardian ad litem of such child witness may, however, move the court
to allow him to testify in the manner provided in this Rule.
Section 9. Interpreter for child. (a) When a child does not understand the English or Filipino language or is unable to communicate in said
languages due to his developmental level, fear, shyness, disability, or other similar reason, an interpreter
whom the child can understand and who understands the child may be appointed by the court, motu proprio
or upon motion, to interpret for the child.
(b) If a witness or member of the family of the child is the only person who can serve as an interpreter for the
child, he shall not be disqualified and may serve as the interpreter of the child. The interpreter, however, who
is also a witness, shall testify ahead of the child.
(c) An interpreter shall take an oath or affirmation to make a true and accurate interpretation.
Section 10. Facilitator to pose questions to child. -

(a) The court may, motu proprio or upon motion, appoint a facilitator if it determines that the child is unable
to understand or respond to questions asked. The facilitator may be a child psychologist, psychiatrist, social
worker, guidance counselor, teacher, religious leader, parent, or relative.
(b) If the court appoints a facilitator, the respective counsels for the parties shall pose questions to the child
only through the facilitator. The questions shall either be in the words used by counsel or, if the child is not
likely to understand the same, in words that are comprehensible to the child and which convey the meaning
intended by counsel.
(c) The facilitator shall take an oath or affirmation to pose questions to the child according to the meaning
intended by counsel.
Section 11. Support persons. (a) A child testifying at a judicial proceeding or making a deposition shall have the right to be accompanied
by one or two persons of his own choosing to provide him emotional support.
(1) Both support persons shall remain within the view of the child during his testimony.
(2) One of the support persons may accompany the child to the witness stand, provided the support
person does not completely obscure the child from the view of the opposing party, judge, or hearing
officer.
(3) The court may allow the support person to hold the hand of the child or take other appropriate
steps to provide emotional support to the child in the course of the proceedings.
(4) The court shall instruct the support persons not to prompt, sway, or influence the child during his
testimony.
(b) If the support person chosen by the child is also a witness, the court may disapprove the choice if it is
sufficiently established that the attendance of the support person during the testimony of the child would
pose a substantial risk of influencing or affecting the content of the testimony of the child.
(c) If the support person who is also a witness is allowed by the court, his testimony shall be presented
ahead of the testimony of the child.
Section 12. Waiting area for child witnesses. - The courts are encouraged to provide a waiting area for children
that is separate from waiting areas used by other persons. The waiting area for children should be furnished so as to
make a child comfortable.
Section 13. Courtroom environment. - To create a more comfortable environment for the child, the court may, in its
discretion, direct and supervise the location, movement and deportment of all persons in the courtroom including the
parties, their counsel, child, witnesses, support persons, guardian ad litem, facilitator, and court personnel. The child
may be allowed to testify from a place other than the witness chair. The witness chair or other place from which the
child testifies may be turned to facilitate his testimony but the opposing party and his counsel must have a frontal or
profile view of the child during the testimony of the child. The witness chair or other place from which the child
testifies may also be rearranged to allow the child to see the opposing party and his counsel, if he chooses to look at
them, without turning his body or leaving the witness stand. The judge need not wear his judicial robe.
Nothing in this section or any other provision of law, except official in-court identification provisions, shall be
construed to require a child to look at the accused.
Accommodations for the child under this section need not be supported by a finding of trauma to the child.

Section 14. Testimony during appropriate hours. - The court may order that the testimony of the child should be
taken during a time of day when the child is well-rested.
Section 15. Recess during testimony. The child may be allowed reasonable periods of relief while undergoing direct, cross, re-direct, and re-cross
examinations as often as necessary depending on his developmental level.
Section 16. Testimonial aids. - The court shall permit a child to use dolls, anatomically-correct dolls, puppets,
drawings, mannequins, or any other appropriate demonstrative device to assist him in his testimony.
Section 17. Emotional security item. - While testifying, a child shall be allowed to have an item of his own choosing
such as a blanket, toy, or doll.
Section 18. Approaching the witness. - The court may prohibit a counsel from approaching a child if it appears that
the child is fearful of or intimidated by the counsel.
Section 19. Mode of questioning. - The court shall exercise control over the questioning of children so as to (1)
facilitate the ascertainment of the truth, (2) ensure that questions are stated in a form appropriate to the
developmental level of the child, (3) protect children from harassment or undue embarrassment, and (4) avoid waste
of time.
The court may allow the child witness to testify in a narrative form.
Section 20. Leading questions. - The court may allow leading questions in all stages of examination of a child if the
same will further the interests of justice.
Section 21. Objections to questions. - Objections to questions should be couched in a manner so as not to
mislead, confuse, frighten, or intimidate the child.
Section 22. Corroboration. - Corroboration shall not be required of a testimony of a child. His testimony, if credible
by itself, shall be sufficient to support a finding of fact, conclusion, or judgment subject to the standard of proof
required in criminal and non-criminal cases.
Section 23. Excluding the public. - When a child testifies, the court may order the exclusion from the courtroom of
all persons, including members of the press, who do not have a direct interest in the case. Such an order may be
made to protect the right to privacy of the child or if the court determines on the record that requiring the child to
testify in open court would cause psychological harm to him, hinder the ascertainment of truth, or result in his inability
to effectively communicate due to embarrassment, fear, or timidity. In making its order, the court shall consider the
developmental level of the child, the nature of the crime, the nature of his testimony regarding the crime, his
relationship to the accused and to persons attending the trial, his desires, and the interests of his parents or legal
guardian. The court may, motu proprio, exclude the public from the courtroom if the evidence to be produced during
trial is of such character as to be offensive to decency or public morals. The court may also, on motion of the
accused, exclude the public from trial, except court personnel and the counsel of the parties.
Section 24. Persons prohibited from entering and leaving courtroom. - The court may order that persons
attending the trial shall not enter or leave the courtroom during the testimony of the child.
Section 25. Live-link television testimony in criminal cases where the child is a victim or a witness. (a) The prosecutor, counsel or the guardian ad litem may apply for an order that the testimony of the child be
taken in a room outside the courtroom and be televised to the courtroom by live-link television.

Before the guardian ad litem applies for an order under this section, he shall consult the prosecutor or
counsel and shall defer to the judgment of the prosecutor or counsel regarding the necessity of applying for
an order. In case the guardian ad ltiem is convinced that the decision of the prosecutor or counsel not to
apply will cause the child serious emotional trauma, he himself may apply for the order.
The person seeking such an order shall apply at least five (5) days before the trial date, unless the court
finds on the record that the need for such an order was not reasonably foreseeable.
(b) The court may motu proprio hear and determine, with notice to the parties, the need for taking the
testimony of the child through live-link television.
(c) The judge may question the child in chambers, or in some comfortable place other than the courtroom, in
the presence of the support person, guardian ad litem, prosecutor, and counsel for the parties. The
questions of the judge shall not be related to the issues at trial but to the feelings of the child about testifying
in the courtroom.
(d) The judge may exclude any person, including the accused, whose presence or conduct causes fear to
the child.
(e) The court shall issue an order granting or denying the use of live-link television and stating the reasons
therefor. It shall consider the following factors:
(1) The age and level of development of the child;
(2) His physical and mental health, including any mental or physical disability;
(3) Any physical, emotional, or psychological injury experienced by him;
(4) The nature of the alleged abuse;
(5) Any threats against the child;
(6) His relationship with the accused or adverse party;
(7) His reaction to any prior encounters with the accused in court or elsewhere;
(8) His reaction prior to trial when the topic of testifying was discussed with him by parents or
professionals;
(9) Specific symptoms of stress exhibited by the child in the days prior to testifying;
(10) Testimony of expert or lay witnesses;
(11) The custodial situation of the child and the attitude of the members of his family regarding the
events about which he will testify; and
(12) Other relevant factors, such as court atmosphere and formalities of court procedure.
(f) The court may order that the testimony of the child be taken by live-link television if there is a substantial
likelihood that the child would suffer trauma from testifying in the presence of the accused, his counsel or the
prosecutor as the case may be. The trauma must be of a kind which would impair the completeness or
truthfulness of the testimony of the child.

(g) If the court orders the taking of testimony by live-link television:


(1) The child shall testify in a room separate from the courtroom in the presence of the guardian ad
litem; one or both of his support persons; the facilitator and interpreter, if any; a court officer
appointed by the court; persons necessary to operate the closed-circuit television equipment; and
other persons whose presence are determined by the court to be necessary to the welfare and
well-being of the child;
(2) The judge, prosecutor, accused, and counsel for the parties shall be in the courtroom. The
testimony of the child shall be transmitted by live-link television into the courtroom for viewing and
hearing by the judge, prosecutor, counsel for the parties, accused, victim, and the public unless
excluded.
(3) If it is necessary for the child to identify the accused at trial, the court may allow the child to
enter the courtroom for the limited purpose of identifying the accused, or the court may allow the
child to identify the accused by observing the image of the latter on a television monitor.
(4) The court may set other conditions and limitations on the taking of the testimony that it finds just
and appropriate, taking into consideration the best interests of the child.
(h) The testimony of the child shall be preserved on videotape, digital disc, or other similar devices which
shall be made part of the court record and shall be subject to a protective order as provided in section 31(b).
Section 26. Screens, one-way mirrors, and other devices to shield child from accused. (a) The prosecutor or the guardian ad litem may apply for an order that the chair of the child or that a screen
or other device be placed in the courtroom in such a manner that the child cannot see the accused while
testifying. Before the guardian ad litem applies for an order under this section, he shall consult with the
prosecutor or counsel subject to the second and third paragraphs of section 25(a) of this Rule. The court
shall issue an order stating the reasons and describing the approved courtroom arrangement.
(b) If the court grants an application to shield the child from the accused while testifying in the courtroom, the
courtroom shall be arranged to enable the accused to view the child.
Section 27. Videotaped deposition. (a) The prosecutor, counsel, or guardian ad litem may apply for an order that a deposition be taken of the
testimony of the child and that it be recorded and preserved on videotape. Before the guardian ad litem
applies for an order under this section, he shall consult with the prosecutor or counsel subject to the second
and third paragraphs of section 25(a).
(b) If the court finds that the child will not be able to testify in open court at trial, it shall issue an order that
the deposition of the child be taken and preserved by videotape.
(c) The judge shall preside at the videotaped deposition of a child. Objections to deposition testimony or
evidence, or parts thereof, and the grounds for the objection shall be stated and shall be ruled upon at the
time of the taking of the deposition. The other persons who may be permitted to be present at the
proceeding are:
(1) The prosecutor;
(2) The defense counsel;
(3) The guardian ad litem;

(4) The accused, subject to sub-section (e);


(5) Other persons whose presence is determined by the court to be necessary to the welfare and
well-being of the child;
(6) One or both of his support persons, the facilitator and interpreter, if any;
(7) The court stenographer; and
(8) Persons necessary to operate the videotape equipment.
(d) The rights of the accused during trial, especially the right to counsel and to confront and cross-examine
the child, shall not be violated during the deposition.
(e) If the order of the court is based on evidence that the child is unable to testify in the physical presence of
the accused, the court may direct the latter to be excluded from the room in which the deposition is
conducted. In case of exclusion of the accused, the court shall order that the testimony of the child be taken
by live-link television in accordance with section 25 of this Rule. If the accused is excluded from the
deposition, it is not necessary that the child be able to view an image of the accused.
(f) The videotaped deposition shall be preserved and stenographically recorded. The videotape and the
stenographic notes shall be transmitted to the clerk of the court where the case is pending for safekeeping
and shall be made a part of the record.
(g) The court may set other conditions on the taking of the deposition that it finds just and appropriate, taking
into consideration the best interests of the child, the constitutional rights of the accused, and other relevant
factors.
(h) The videotaped deposition and stenographic notes shall be subject to a protective order as provided in
section 31(b).
(i) If, at the time of trial, the court finds that the child is unable to testify for a reason stated in section 25(f) of
this Rule, or is unavailable for any reason described in section 4(c), Rule 23 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, the court may admit into evidence the videotaped deposition of the child in lieu of his testimony
at the trial. The court shall issue an order stating the reasons therefor.
(j) After the original videotaping but before or during trial, any party may file any motion for additional
videotaping on the ground of newly discovered evidence. The court may order an additional videotaped
deposition to receive the newly discovered evidence.
Section 28. Hearsay exception in child abuse cases. - A statement made by a child describing any act or
attempted act of child abuse, not otherwise admissible under the hearsay rule, may be admitted in evidence in any
criminal or non-criminal proceeding subject to the following rules:
(a) Before such hearsay statement may be admitted, its proponent shall make known to the adverse party
the intention to offer such statement and its particulars to provide him a fair opportunity to object. If the child
is available, the court shall, upon motion of the adverse party, require the child to be present at the
presentation of the hearsay statement for cross-examination by the adverse party. When the child is
unavailable, the fact of such circumstance must be proved by the proponent.
(b) In ruling on the admissibility of such hearsay statement, the court shall consider the time, content and
circumstances thereof which provide sufficient indicia of reliability. It shall consider the following factors:
(1) Whether there is a motive to lie;

(2) The general character of the declarant child;


(3) Whether more than one person heard the statement;
(4) Whether the statement was spontaneous;
(5) The timing of the statement and the relationship between the declarant child and witness;
(6) Cross-examination could not show the lack of knowledge of the declarant child;
(7) The possibility of faulty recollection of the declarant child is remote; and
(8) The circumstances surrounding the statement are such that there is no reason to suppose the
declarant child misrepresented the involvement of the accused.
(c) The child witness shall be considered unavailable under the following situations:
(1) Is deceased, suffers from physical infirmity, lack of memory, mental illness, or will be exposed to
severe psychological injury; or
(2) Is absent from the hearing and the proponent of his statement has been unable to procure his
attendance by process or other reasonable means.
(d) When the child witness is unavailable, his hearsay testimony shall be admitted only if corroborated by
other admissible evidence.
Section 29. Admissibility of videotaped and audiotaped in-depth investigative or disclosure interviews in
child abuse cases. - The court may admit videotape and audiotape in-depth investigative or disclosure interviews as
evidence, under the following conditions:
(a) The child witness is unable to testify in court on grounds and under conditions established under section
28 (c).
(b) The interview of the child was conducted by duly trained members of a multidisciplinary team or
representatives of law enforcement or child protective services in situations where child abuse is suspected
so as to determine whether child abuse occurred.
(c) The party offering the videotape or audiotape must prove that:
(1) the videotape or audiotape discloses the identity of all individuals present and at all times
includes their images and voices;
(2) the statement was not made in response to questioning calculated to lead the child to make a
particular statement or is clearly shown to be the statement of the child and not the product of
improper suggestion;
(3) the videotape and audiotape machine or device was capable of recording testimony;
(4) the person operating the device was competent to operate it;
(5) the videotape or audiotape is authentic and correct; and
(6) it has been duly preserved.

The individual conducting the interview of the child shall be available at trial for examination by any party. Before the
videotape or audiotape is offered in evidence, all parties shall be afforded an opportunity to view or listen to it and
shall be furnished a copy of a written transcript of the proceedings.
The fact that an investigative interview is not videotaped or audiotaped as required by this section shall not by itself
constitute a basis to exclude from evidence out-of-court statements or testimony of the child. It may, however, be
considered in determining the reliability of the statements of the child describing abuse.
Section 30. Sexual abuse shield rule. (a) Inadmissible evidence. - The following evidence is not admissible in any criminal proceeding involving
alleged child sexual abuse:
(1) Evidence offered to prove that the alleged victim engaged in other sexual behavior; and
(2) Evidence offered to prove the sexual predisposition of the alleged victim.
(b) Exception. - Evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior by the alleged victim to prove that a
person other than the accused was the source of semen, injury, or other physical evidence shall be
admissible.
A party intending to offer such evidence must:
(1) File a written motion at least fifteen (15) days before trial, specifically describing the evidence and stating
the purpose for which it is offered, unless the court, for good cause, requires a different time for filing or
permits filing during trial; and
(2) Serve the motion on all parties and the guardian ad litem at least three (3) days before the hearing of the
motion.
Before admitting such evidence, the court must conduct a hearing in chambers and afford the child, his guardian ad
litem, the parties, and their counsel a right to attend and be heard. The motion and the record of the hearing must be
sealed and remain under seal and protected by a protective order set forth in section 31(b). The child shall not be
required to testify at the hearing in chambers except with his consent.
Section 31. Protection of privacy and safety. (a) Confidentiality of records. - Any record regarding a child shall be confidential and kept under seal. Except
upon written request and order of the court, a record shall only be released to the following:
(1) Members of the court staff for administrative use;
(2) The prosecuting attorney;
(3) Defense counsel;
(4) The guardian ad litem;
(5) Agents of investigating law enforcement agencies; and
(6) Other persons as determined by the court.

(b) Protective order. - Any videotape or audiotape of a child that is part of the court record shall be under a
protective order that provides as follows:
(1) Tapes may be viewed only by parties, their counsel, their expert witness, and the guardian ad
litem.
(2) No tape, or any portion thereof, shall be divulged by any person mentioned in sub-section (a) to
any other person, except as necessary for the trial.
(3) No person shall be granted access to the tape, its transcription or any part thereof unless he
signs a written affirmation that he has received and read a copy of the protective order; that he
submits to the jurisdiction of the court with respect to the protective order; and that in case of
violation thereof, he will be subject to the contempt power of the court.
(4) Each of the tape cassettes and transcripts thereof made available to the parties, their counsel,
and respective agents shall bear the following cautionary notice:
"This object or document and the contents thereof are subject to a protective order issued by the
court in (case title) , (case number) . They shall not be examined, inspected, read, viewed, or
copied by any person, or disclosed to any person, except as provided in the protective order. No
additional copies of the tape or any of its portion shall be made, given, sold, or shown to any
person without prior court order. Any person violating such protective order is subject to the
contempt power of the court and other penalties prescribed by law."
(5) No tape shall be given, loaned, sold, or shown to any person except as ordered by the court.
(6) Within thirty (30) days from receipt, all copies of the tape and any transcripts thereof shall be
returned to the clerk of court for safekeeping unless the period is extended by the court on motion
of a party.
(7) This protective order shall remain in full force and effect until further order of the court.
(c) Additional protective orders. - The court may, motu proprio or on motion of any party, the child, his
parents, legal guardian, or the guardian ad litem, issue additional orders to protect the privacy of the child.
(d) Publication of identity contemptuous. - Whoever publishes or causes to be published in any format the
name, address, telephone number, school, or other identifying information of a child who is or is alleged to
be a victim or accused of a crime or a witness thereof, or an immediate family of the child shall be liable to
the contempt power of the court.
(e) Physical safety of child; exclusion of evidence. - A child has a right at any court proceeding not to testify
regarding personal identifying information, including his name, address, telephone number, school, and
other information that could endanger his physical safety or his family. The court may, however, require the
child to testify regarding personal identifying information in the interest of justice.
(f) Destruction of videotapes and audiotapes. - Any videotape or audiotape of a child produced under the
provisions of this Rule or otherwise made part of the court record shall be destroyed after five (5) years have
elapsed from the date of entry of judgment.
(g) Records of youthful offender. - Where a youthful offender has been charged before any city or provincial
prosecutor or before any municipal judge and the charges have been ordered dropped, all the records of the
case shall be considered as privileged and may not be disclosed directly or indirectly to anyone for any
purpose whatsoever.

Where a youthful offender has been charged and the court acquits him, or dismisses the case or commits him to an
institution and subsequently releases him pursuant to Chapter 3 of P. D. No. 603, all the records of his case shall also
be considered as privileged and may not be disclosed directly or indirectly to anyone except to determine if a
defendant may have his sentence suspended under Article 192 of P. D. No. 603 or if he may be granted probation
under the provisions of P. D. No. 968 or to enforce his civil liability, if said liability has been imposed in the criminal
action. The youthful offender concerned shall not be held under any provision of law to be guilty of perjury or of
concealment or misrepresentation by reason of his failure to acknowledge the case or recite any fact related thereto
in response to any inquiry made to him for any purpose.
"Records" within the meaning of this sub-section shall include those which may be in the files of the National Bureau
of Investigation and with any police department or government agency which may have been involved in the case.
(Art. 200, P. D. No. 603)
Section 32. Applicability of ordinary rules. - The provisions of the Rules of Court on deposition, conditional
examination of witnesses, and evidence shall be applied in a suppletory character.
Section 33. Effectivity. - This Rule shall take effect on December 15, 2000 following its publication in two (2)
newspapers of general circulation.
A.M. No. 06-11-5-SC
(2 October 2007)
RULE ON DNA EVIDENCE
RESOLUTION
Acting on the recommendation of the Chairperson and Members of the Subcommittee on Evidence submitting for the
Courts consideration and approval the proposed Rule on DNA Evidence, the Court Resolved to APPROVE the same.
This Resolution shall take effect on October 15, 2007 following its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
October 2, 2007.
[sgd.]
RENATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

[sgd.]
LEONARO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

[sgd.]
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

[sgd.]
DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice

[sgd.]
RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice

RULE ON DNA EVIDENCE


SECTION 1. Scope. This Rule shall apply whenever DNA evidence, as defined in Section 3 hereof, is offered,
used, or proposed to be offered or used as evidence in all criminal and civil actions as well as special proceedings.
Sec. 2. Application of other Rules on Evidence. In all matters not specifically covered by this Rule, the Rules of
Court and other pertinent provisions of law on evidence shall apply.
Sec. 3. Definition of Terms. For purposes of this Rule, the following terms shall be defined as follows:
a.

Biological sample means any organic material originating from a persons body, even if found in inanimate
objects, that is susceptible to DNA testing. This includes blood, saliva and other body fluids, tissues, hairs
and bones;

b.

DNA means deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the chain of molecules found in every nucleated cell of the
body. The totality of an individuals DNA is unique for the individual, except identical twins;

c.

DNA evidence constitutes the totality of the DNA profiles, results and other genetic information directly
generated from DNA testing of biological samples;

d.

DNA profile means genetic information derived from DNA testing of a biological sample obtained from a
person, which biological sample is clearly identifiable as originating from that person;

e.

DNA testing means verified and credible scientific methods which include the extraction of DNA from
biological samples, the generation of DNA profiles and the comparison of the information obtained from the
DNA testing of biological samples for the purpose of determining, with reasonable certainty, whether or not
the DNA obtained from two or more distinct biological samples originates from the same person (direct
identification) or if the biological samples originate from related persons (kinship analysis); and

f.

Probability of Parentage means the numerical estimate for the likelihood of parentage of a putative parent
compared with the probability of a random match of two unrelated individuals in a given population.

Sec. 4. Application for DNA Testing Order. The appropriate court may, at any time, either motu proprio or on
application of any person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, order a DNA testing. Such order shall
issue after due hearing and notice to the parties upon a showing of the following:
a.

A biological sample exists that is relevant to the case;

b.

The biological sample: (i) was not previously subjected to the type of DNA testing now requested; or (ii) was
previously subjected to DNA testing, but the results may require confirmation for good reasons;

c.

The DNA testing uses a scientifically valid technique;

d.

The DNA testing has the scientific potential to produce new information that is relevant to the proper
resolution of the case; and

e.

The existence of other factors, if any, which the court may consider as potentially affecting the accuracy of
integrity of the DNA testing.

This Rule shall not preclude a DNA testing, without need of a prior court order, at the behest of any party, including
law enforcement agencies, before a suit or proceeding is commenced.
Sec. 5. DNA Testing Order. If the court finds that the requirements in Section 4 hereof have been complied with,
the court shall
a.

Order, where appropriate, that biological samples be taken from any person or crime scene evidence;

b.

Impose reasonable conditions on DNA testing designed to protect the integrity of the biological sample, the
testing process and the reliability of the test results, including the condition that the DNA test results shall be
simultaneously disclosed to parties involved in the case; and

c.

If the biological sample taken is of such an amount that prevents the conduct of confirmatory testing by the
other or the adverse party and where additional biological samples of the same kind can no longer be
obtained, issue an order requiring all parties to the case or proceedings to witness the DNA testing to be
conducted.

An order granting the DNA testing shall be immediately executory and shall not be appealable. Any petition for
certiorari initiated therefrom shall not, in any way, stay the implementation thereof, unless a higher court issues an
injunctive order. The grant of DNA testing application shall not be construed as an automatic admission into evidence
of any component of the DNA evidence that may be obtained as a result thereof.
Sec. 6. Post-conviction DNA Testing. Post-conviction DNA testing may be available, without need of prior court
order, to the prosecution or any person convicted by final and executory judgment provided that (a) a biological
sample exists, (b) such sample is relevant to the case, and (c) the testing would probably result in the reversal or
modification of the judgment of conviction.
Sec. 7. Assessment of probative value of DNA evidence. In assessing the probative value of the DNA evidence
presented, the court shall consider the following:
a.

The chair of custody, including how the biological samples were collected, how they were handled, and the
possibility of contamination of the samples;

b.

The DNA testing methodology, including the procedure followed in analyzing the samples, the advantages
and disadvantages of the procedure, and compliance with the scientifically valid standards in conducting the
tests;

c.

The forensic DNA laboratory, including accreditation by any reputable standards-setting institution and the
qualification of the analyst who conducted the tests. If the laboratory is not accredited, the relevant
experience of the laboratory in forensic casework and credibility shall be properly established; and

d.

The reliability of the testing result, as hereinafter provided.

The provisions of the Rules of Court concerning the appreciation of evidence shall apply suppletorily.

Sec. 8. Reliability of DNA Testing Methodology. In evaluating whether the DNA testing methodology is reliable,
the court shall consider the following:
a.

The falsifiability of the principles or methods used, that is, whether the theory or technique can be and has
been tested;

b.

The subjection to peer review and publication of the principles or methods;

c.

The general acceptance of the principles or methods by the relevant scientific community;

d.

The existence and maintenance of standards and controls to ensure the correctness of data generated;

e.

The existence of an appropriate reference population database; and

f.

The general degree of confidence attributed to mathematical calculations used in comparing DNA profiles
and the significance and limitation of statistical calculations used in comparing DNA profiles.

Sec. 9. of DNA Testing Results. In evaluating the results of DNA testing, the court shall consider the following:
a.

The evaluation of the weight of matching DNA evidence or the relevance of mismatching DNA evidence;

b.

The results of the DNA testing in the light of the totality of the other evidence presented in the case; and that

c.

DNA results that exclude the putative parent from paternity shall be conclusive proof of non-paternity. If the
value of the Probability of Paternity is less than 99.9%, the results of the DNA testing shall be considered as
corroborative evidence. If the value of the Probability of Paternity is 99.9% or higher there shall be a
disputable presumption of paternity.

Sec. 10. Post-conviction DNA Testing Remedy if the Results Are Favorable to the Convict. The convict or the
prosecution may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the court of origin if the results of the post-conviction
DNA testing are favorable to the convict. In the case the court, after due hearing finds the petition to be meritorious, if
shall reverse or modify the judgment of conviction and order the release of the convict, unless continued detention is
justified for a lawful cause.
A similar petition may be filed either in the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, or with any member of said courts,
which may conduct a hearing thereon or remand the petition to the court of origin and issue the appropriate orders.
Sec. 11. Confidentiality. DNA profiles and all results or other information obtained from DNA testing shall be
confidential. Except upon order of the court, a DNA profile and all results or other information obtained from DNA
testing shall only be released to any of the following, under such terms and conditions as may be set forth by the
court:
a.

Person from whom the sample was taken;

b.

Person from whom the sample was taken;

c.

Lawyers of private complainants in a criminal action;

d.

Duly authorized law enforcement agencies; and

e.

Other persons as determined by the court.

Whoever discloses, utilizes or publishes in any form any information concerning a DNA profile without the proper
court order shall be liable for indirect contempt of the court wherein such DNA evidence was offered, presented or
sought to be offered and presented.

Where the person from whom the biological sample was taken files a written verified request to the court that allowed
the DNA testing for the disclosure of the DNA profile of the person and all results or other information obtained from
the DNA testing, he same may be disclosed to the persons named in the written verified request.
Sec. 12. Preservation of DNA Evidence. The trial court shall preserve the DNA evidence in its totality, including all
biological samples, DNA profiles and results or other genetic information obtained from DNA testing. For this purpose,
the court may order the appropriate government agency to preserve the DNA evidence as follows:
a.

a.

In criminal cases:
i.

for not less than the period of time that any person is under trial for an offense; or

ii.

in case the accused is serving sentence, until such time as the accused has served his
sentence;

In all other cases, until such time as the decision in the case where the DNA evidence was introduced has
become final and executory.

The court may allow the physical destruction of a biological sample before the expiration of the periods set forth
above, provided that:
a.

A court order to that effect has been secured; or

b.

The person from whom the DNA sample was obtained has consented in writing to the disposal of the DNA
evidence.

Sec. 13. Applicability to Pending Cases. Except as provided in Section 6 and 10 hereof, this Rule shall apply to
cases pending at the time of its effectivity.
Sec. 14. Effectivity. This Rule shall take effect on October 15, 2007, following publication in a newspaper of general
circulation.
ARTICLE III
BILL OF RIGHTS
Section 14.
1.

No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

2.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall
enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation
against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have
compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf.
However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused: Provided, that
he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

Republic Act No. 6981

April 24, 1991

AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A WITNESS PROTECTION, SECURITY AND BENEFIT PROGRAM AND FOR OTHER
PURPOSES
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled::

Section 1. Name of Act. - This Act shall be known as the "Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act".
Section 2. Implementation of Program. - The Department of Justice, hereinafter referred to as the Department,
through its Secretary, shall formulate and implement a "Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program",
hereinafter referred to as the Program, pursuant to and consistent with the provisions of this Act.
The Department may call upon any department, bureau, office or any other executive agency to assist in the
implementation of the Program and the latter offices shall be under legal duty and obligation to render such
assistance.
Section 3. Admission into the Program. - Any person who has witnessed or has knowledge or information on the
commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or about to testify before any judicial or quasi-judicial body, or
before any investigating authority, may be admitted into the Program:
Provided, That:
a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal
Code, or its equivalent under special laws;lawphi1
b) his testimony can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
c) he or any member of his family within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity is subjected to
threats to his life or bodily injury or there is a likelihood that he will be killed, forced, intimidated, harassed or
corrupted to prevent him from testifying, or to testify falsely, or evasively, because or on account of his
testimony; and
d) he is not a law enforcement officer, even if he would be testifying against the other law enforcement
officers. In such a case, only the immediate members of his family may avail themselves of the protection
provided for under this Act.
If the Department, after examination of said applicant and other relevant facts, is convinced that the requirements of
this Act and its implementing rules and regulations have been complied with, it shall admit said applicant to the
Program, require said witness to execute a sworn statement detailing his knowledge or information on the
commission of the crime, and thereafter issue the proper certification. For purposes of this Act, any such person
admitted to the Program shall be known as the Witness.
Section 4. Witness in Legislative Investigations. - In case of legislative investigations in aid of legislation, a
witness, with his express consent, may be admitted into the Program upon the recommendation of the legislative
committee where his testimony is needed when in its judgment there is pressing necessity therefor: Provided, That
such recommendation is approved by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
as the case may be.
Section 5. Memorandum of Agreement With the Person to be Protected. - Before a person is provided protection
under this Act, he shall first execute a memorandum of agreement which shall set forth his responsibilities including:
a) to testify before and provide information to all appropriate law enforcement officials concerning all
appropriate proceedings in connection with or arising from the activities involved in the offense charged;
b) to avoid the commission of the crime;lawphi1
c) to take all necessary precautions to avoid detection by others of the facts concerning the protection
provided him under this Act;
d) to comply with legal obligations and civil judgments against him;

e) to cooperate with respect to all reasonable requests of officers and employees of the Government who
are providing protection under this Act; and
f) to regularly inform the appropriate program official of his current activities and address.1awphi1
Section 6. Breach of the Memorandum of Agreement. - Substantial breach of the memorandum of agreement
shall be a ground for the termination of the protection provided under this Act: Provided, however, That before
terminating such protection, the Secretary of Justice shall send notice to the person involved of the termination of the
protection provided under this Act, stating therein the reason for such termination.
Section 7. Confidentiality of Proceedings. - All proceedings involving application for admission into the Program
and the action taken thereon shall be confidential in nature. No information or documents given or submitted in
support thereof shall be released except upon written order of the Department or the proper court.
Any person who violates the confidentiality of said proceedings shall upon conviction be punished with imprisonment
of not less than one (1) year but not more than six (6) years and deprivation of the right to hold a public office or
employment for a period of five (5) years.
Section 8. Rights and Benefits. - The witness shall have the following rights and benefits:ITC-ALF
(a) To have a secure housing facility until he has testified or until the threat, intimidation or harassment
disappears or is reduced to a manageable or tolerable level. When the circumstances warrant, the Witness
shall be entitled to relocation and/or change of personal identity at the expense of the Program. This right
may be extended to any member of the family of the Witness within the second civil degree of consanguinity
or affinity.
(b) The Department shall, whenever practicable, assist the Witness in obtaining a means of livelihood. The
Witness relocated pursuant to this Act shall be entitled to a financial assistance from the Program for his
support and that of his family in such amount and for such duration as the Department shall determine.
(c) In no case shall the Witness be removed from or demoted in work because or on account of his
absences due to his attendance before any judicial or quasi-judicial body or investigating authority, including
legislative investigations in aid of legislation, in going thereto and in coming therefrom: Provided, That his
employer is notified through a certification issued by the Department, within a period of thirty (30) days from
the date when the Witness last reported for work: Provided, further, That in the case of prolonged transfer or
permanent relocation, the employer shall have the option to remove the Witness from employment after
securing clearance from the Department upon the recommendation of the Department of Labor and
Employment.
Any Witness who failed to report for work because of witness duty shall be paid his equivalent salaries or
wages corresponding to the number of days of absence occasioned by the Program. For purposes of this
Act, any fraction of a day shall constitute a full day salary or wage. This provision shall be applicable to both
government and private employees.
(d) To be provided with reasonable travelling expenses and subsistence allowance by the Program in such
amount as the Department may determine for his attendance in the court, body or authority where his
testimony is required, as well as conferences and interviews with prosecutors or investigating officers.
(e) To be provided with free medical treatment, hospitalization and medicines for any injury or illness
incurred or suffered by him because of witness duty in any private or public hospital, clinic, or at any such
institution at the expense of the Program.
(f) If a Witness is killed, because of his participation in the Program, his heirs shall be entitled to a burial
benefit of not less than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) from the Program exclusive of any other similar
benefits he may be entitled to under other existing laws.

(g) In case of death or permanent incapacity, his minor or dependent children shall be entitled to free
education, from primary to college level in any state, or private school, college or university as may be
determined by the Department, as long as they shall have qualified thereto.
Section 9. Speedy Hearing or Trial. - In any case where a Witness admitted into the Program shall testify, the
judicial or quasi-judicial body, or investigating authority shall assure a speedy hearing or trial and shall endeavor to
finish said proceeding within three (3) months from the filing of the case.
Section 10. State Witness. - Any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a
witness for the State, can apply and, if qualified as determined in this Act and by the Department, shall be admitted
into the Program whenever the following circumstances are present:
(a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal
Code or its equivalent under special laws;
(b) there is absolute necessity for his testimony;
(c) there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed:
(d) his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;
(e) he does not appear to be most guilty; and
(f) he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
An accused discharged from an information or criminal complaint by the court in order that he may be a State
Witness pursuant to Section 9 and 10 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court may upon his petition be admitted to
the Program if he complies with the other requirements of this Act. Nothing in this Act shall prevent the discharge of
an accused, so that he can be used as a State Witness under Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.
Section 11. Sworn Statement. - Before any person is admitted into the Program pursuant to the next preceding
Section he shall execute a sworn statement describing in detail the manner in which the offense was committed and
his participation therein. If after said examination of said person, his sworn statement and other relevant facts, the
Department is satisfied that the requirements of this Act and its implementing rules are complied with, it may admit
such person into the Program and issue the corresponding certification.
If his application for admission is denied, said sworn statement and any other testimony given in support of said
application shall not be admissible in evidence, except for impeachment purposes.
Section 12. Effect of Admission of a State Witness into the Program. - The certification of admission into the
Program by the Department shall be given full faith and credit by the provincial or city prosecutor who is required not
to include the Witness in the criminal complaint or information and if included therein, to petition the court for his
discharge in order that he can utilized as a State Witness. The Court shall order the discharge and exclusion of the
said accused from the information.
Admission into the Program shall entitle such State Witness to immunity from criminal prosecution for the offense or
offenses in which his testimony will be given or used and all the rights and benefits provided under Section 8 hereof.
Section 13. Failure or Refusal of the Witness to Testify. - Any Witness registered in the Program who fails or
refuses to testify or to continue to testify without just cause when lawfully obliged to do so, shall be prosecuted for
contempt. If he testifies falsely or evasively, he shall be liable to prosecution for perjury. If a State Witness fails or
refuses to testify, or testifies falsely or evasively, or violates any condition accompanying such immunity without just
cause, as determined in a hearing by the proper court, his immunity shall be removed and he shall be subject to

contempt or criminal prosecution. Moreover, the enjoyment of all rights and benefits under this Act shall be deemed
terminated.
The Witness may, however, purge himself of the contumacious acts by testifying at any appropriate stage of the
proceedings.
Section 14. Compelled Testimony. - Any Witness admitted into the Program pursuant to Sections 3 and 10 of this
Act cannot refuse to testify or give evidence or produce books, documents, records or writings necessary for the
prosecution of the offense or offenses for which he has been admitted into the Program on the ground of the
constitutional right against self-incrimination but he shall enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution and cannot be
subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for any transaction, matter or thing concerning his compelled testimony or
books, documents, records and writings produced.
In case of refusal of said Witness to testify or give evidence or produce books, documents, records, or writings, on
the ground of the right against self-incrimination, and the state prosecutor or investigator believes that such evidence
is absolutely necessary for a successful prosecution of the offense or offenses charged or under investigation, he,
with the prior approval of the department, shall file a petition with the appropriate court for the issuance of an order
requiring said Witness to testify, give evidence or produce the books, documents, records, and writings described,
and the court shall issue the proper order.
The court, upon motion of the state prosecutor or investigator, shall order the arrest and detention of the Witness in
any jail contiguous to the place of trial or investigation until such time that the Witness is willing to give such testimony
or produce such documentary evidence.
Section 15. Perjury or Contempt. - No Witness shall be exempt from prosecution for perjury or contempt committed
while giving testimony or producing evidence under compulsion pursuant to this Act. The penalty next higher in
degree shall be imposed in case of conviction for perjury. The procedure prescribed under Rule 71 of the Rules of
Court shall be followed in contempt proceedings but the penalty to be imposed shall not be less than one (1) month
but not more than one (1) year imprisonment.
Section 16. Credibility of Witness. - In all criminal cases, the fact of the entitlement of the Witness to the protection
and benefits provided for in this Act shall not be admissible in evidence to diminish or affect his credibility.
Section 17. Penalty for Harassment of Witness. - Any person who harasses a Witness and thereby hinders,
delays, prevents or dissuades a Witness from:
(a) attending or testifying before any judicial or quasi-judicial body or investigating authority;
(b) reporting to a law enforcement officer or judge the commission or possible commission of an offense, or
a violation of conditions or probation, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;
(c) seeking the arrest of another person in connection with the offense;
(d) causing a criminal prosecution, or a proceeding for the revocation of a parole or probation; or
(e) performing and enjoying the rights and benefits under this Act or attempts to do so, shall be fined not
more than Three thousand pesos (P3,000.00) or suffer imprisonment of not less than six (6) months but not
more than one (1) year, or both, and he shall also suffer the penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding
public office in case of a public officer.
Section 18. Rules and Regulations. - The Department shall promulgate such rules and regulations as may be
necessary to implement the intent and purposes of this Act. Said rules and regulations shall be published in two (2)
newspapers of general circulation.

Section 19. Repealing Clause. - All laws, decrees, executive issuances, rules and regulations inconsistent with this
Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.
Section 20. Funding. - The amount of Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) is hereby authorized to be appropriated
out of any funds in the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated to carry into effect the purpose of this Act.
Expenses incurred in the implementation of the Program may be recovered as part of the cost or indemnity imposed
upon the accused.
Furthermore, other funding schemes or sources, subject to the limitations of the law, shall be allowed in furtherance
hereof.
Section 21. Separability Clause. - The declaration of unconstitutionality or invalidity of any provision of this Act shall
not affect the other provisions hereof.
Section 22. Effectivity. - This Act shall take effect after fifteen (15) days following its publication in two (2)
newspapers of general circulation.
Approved: April 24, 1991lawphi1
G.R. No. 152643

August 28, 2008

CONCEPCION CUENCO VDA. DE MANGUERRA and THE HON. RAMON C. CODILLA, JR., Presiding Judge of
the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 19, petitioners,
vs.
RAUL RISOS, SUSANA YONGCO, LEAH ABARQUEZ and ATTY. GAMALIEL D.B. BONJE,respondents.
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the Court of Appeals (CA)
Decision1 dated August 15, 2001 and its Resolution2 dated March 12, 2002. The CA decision set aside the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) Orders dated August 25, 20003 granting Concepcion Cuenco Vda. de Manguerras (Concepcions)
motion to take deposition, and dated November 3, 20004 denying the motion for reconsideration of respondents Raul
G. Risos, Susana Yongco, Leah Abarquez, and Atty. Gamaliel D.B. Bonje.
The facts of the case, as culled from the records, follow:
On November 4, 1999, respondents were charged with Estafa Through Falsification of Public Document before the
RTC of Cebu City, Branch 19, through a criminal information dated October 27, 1999, which was subsequently
amended on November 18, 1999. The case, docketed as Criminal Case No. CBU-52248,5 arose from the falsification
of a deed of real estate mortgage allegedly committed by respondents where they made it appear that Concepcion,
the owner of the mortgaged property known as the Gorordo property, affixed her signature to the document. Hence,
the criminal case.6
Earlier, on September 10, 1999, Concepcion, who was a resident of Cebu City, while on vacation in Manila, was
unexpectedly confined at the Makati Medical Center due to upper gastro-intestinal bleeding; and was advised to stay
in Manila for further treatment.7
On November 24, 1999, respondents filed a Motion for Suspension of the Proceedings in Criminal Case No. CBU52248 on the ground of prejudicial question. They argued that Civil Case No. CEB-20359, which was an action for
declaration of nullity of the mortgage, should first be resolved.8 On May 11, 2000, the RTC granted the aforesaid
motion. Concepcions motion for reconsideration was denied on June 5, 2000.9

This prompted Concepcion to institute a special civil action for certiorari before the CA seeking the nullification of the
May 11 and June 5 RTC orders. The case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 60266 and remains pending before the
appellate court to date.10
On August 16, 2000, the counsel of Concepcion filed a motion to take the latters deposition.11 He explained the need
to perpetuate Concepcions testimony due to her weak physical condition and old age, which limited her freedom of
mobility.
On August 25, 2000, the RTC granted the motion and directed that Concepcions deposition be taken before the
Clerk of Court of Makati City.12 The respondents motion for reconsideration was denied by the trial court on
November 3, 2000. The court ratiocinated that procedural technicalities should be brushed aside because of the
urgency of the situation, since Concepcion was already of advanced age.13 After several motions for change of venue
of the deposition-taking, Concepcions deposition was finally taken on March 9, 2001 at her residence.14
Aggrieved, respondents assailed the August 25 and November 3 RTC orders in a special civil action
for certiorari before the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 62551.15
On August 15, 2001, the CA rendered a Decision16 favorable to the respondents, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the August 25, 2000 and November 3, 2000 orders of the
court a quo are hereby SET ASIDE, and any deposition that may have been taken on the authority of such
void orders is similarly declared void.
SO ORDERED.17
At the outset, the CA observed that there was a defect in the respondents petition by not impleading the People of
the Philippines, an indispensable party. This notwithstanding, the appellate court resolved the matter on its merit,
declaring that the examination of prosecution witnesses, as in the present case, is governed by Section 15, Rule 119
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and not Rule 23 of the Rules of Court. The latter provision, said the
appellate court, only applies to civil cases. Pursuant to the specific provision of Section 15, Rule 119, Concepcions
deposition should have been taken before the judge or the court where the case is pending, which is the RTC of
Cebu, and not before the Clerk of Court of Makati City; and thus, in issuing the assailed order, the RTC clearly
committed grave abuse of discretion. 18
In its Resolution dated March 12, 2002 denying petitioners motion for reconsideration, the CA added that the
rationale of the Rules in requiring the taking of deposition before the same court is the constitutional right of the
accused to meet the witnesses face to face. The appellate court likewise concluded that Rule 23 could not be applied
suppletorily because the situation was adequately addressed by a specific provision of the rules of criminal
procedure.19
Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:
I.
WHETHER OR NOT RULE 23 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE APPLIES TO THE
DEPOSITION OF PETITIONER.
II.
WHETHER OR NOT FAILURE TO IMPLEAD THE "PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES" IN A PETITION FOR
CERTIORARI ARISING FROM A CRIMINAL CASE A QUO CONSTITUTES A WAIVABLE DEFECT IN THE
PETITION FOR CERTIORARI.20

It is undisputed that in their petition for certiorari before the CA, respondents failed to implead the People of the
Philippines as a party thereto. Because of this, the petition was obviously defective. As provided in Section 5, Rule
110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, all criminal actions are prosecuted under the direction and control of
the public prosecutor. Therefore, it behooved the petitioners (respondents herein) to implead the People of the
Philippines as respondent in the CA case to enable the Solicitor General to comment on the petition.21
However, this Court has repeatedly declared that the failure to implead an indispensable party is not a ground for the
dismissal of an action. In such a case, the remedy is to implead the non-party claimed to be indispensable. Parties
may be added by order of the court, on motion of the party or on its own initiative at any stage of the action and/or
such times as are just. If the petitioner/plaintiff refuses to implead an indispensable party despite the order of the
court, the latter may dismiss the complaint/petition for the petitioners/plaintiffs failure to comply.22
In this case, the CA disregarded the procedural flaw by allowing the petition to proceed, in the interest of substantial
justice. Also noteworthy is that, notwithstanding the non-joinder of the People of the Philippines as party-respondent,
it managed, through the Office of the Solicitor General, to file its Comment on the petition for certiorari. Thus, the
People was given the opportunity to refute the respondents arguments.
Instructive is the Courts pronouncement in Commissioner Domingo v. Scheer23 in this wise:
There is nothing sacred about processes or pleadings, their forms or contents. Their sole purpose is to
facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties. They were created, not to hinder
and delay, but to facilitate and promote, the administration of justice. They do not constitute the thing itself,
which courts are always striving to secure to litigants. They are designed as the means best adapted to
obtain that thing. In other words, they are a means to an end. When they lose the character of the one and
become the other, the administration of justice is at fault and courts are correspondingly remiss in the
performance of their obvious duty.24
Accordingly, the CA cannot be faulted for deciding the case on the merits despite the procedural defect.
On the more important issue of whether Rule 23 of the Rules of Court applies to the instant case, we rule in the
negative.
It is basic that all witnesses shall give their testimonies at the trial of the case in the presence of the judge.25 This is
especially true in criminal cases in order that the accused may be afforded the opportunity to cross-examine the
witnesses pursuant to his constitutional right to confront the witnesses face to face.26 It also gives the parties and their
counsel the chance to propound such questions as they deem material and necessary to support their position or to
test the credibility of said witnesses.27 Lastly, this rule enables the judge to observe the witnesses demeanor.28
This rule, however, is not absolute. As exceptions, Rules 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court provide for the different
modes of discovery that may be resorted to by a party to an action. These rules are adopted either to perpetuate the
testimonies of witnesses or as modes of discovery. In criminal proceedings, Sections 12,29 1330 and 15,31 Rule 119 of
the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, allow the conditional examination
of both the defense and prosecution witnesses.
In the case at bench, in issue is the examination of a prosecution witness, who, according to the petitioners, was too
sick to travel and appear before the trial court. Section 15 of Rule 119 thus comes into play, and it provides:
Section 15. Examination of witness for the prosecution. When it satisfactorily appears that a witness for
the prosecution is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial as directed by the court, or has to leave the
Philippines with no definite date of returning, he may forthwith be conditionally examined before the court
where the case is pending. Such examination, in the presence of the accused, or in his absence after
reasonable notice to attend the examination has been served on him, shall be conducted in the same
manner as an examination at the trial. Failure or refusal of the accused to attend the examination after
notice shall be considered a waiver. The statement taken may be admitted in behalf of or against the
accused.

Petitioners contend that Concepcions advanced age and health condition exempt her from the application of Section
15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and thus, calls for the application of Rule 23 of the Rules of Civil
Procedure.
The contention does not persuade.
The very reason offered by the petitioners to exempt Concepcion from the coverage of Rule 119 is at once the
ground which places her squarely within the coverage of the same provision. Rule 119 specifically states that a
witness may be conditionally examined: 1) if the witness is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial; or 2) if the witness
has to leave the Philippines with no definite date of returning. Thus, when Concepcion moved that her deposition be
taken, had she not been too sick at that time, her motion would have been denied. Instead of conditionally examining
her outside the trial court, she would have been compelled to appear before the court for examination during the trial
proper.
Undoubtedly, the procedure set forth in Rule 119 applies to the case at bar. It is thus required that the conditional
examination be made before the court where the case is pending. It is also necessary that the accused be notified, so
that he can attend the examination, subject to his right to waive the same after reasonable notice. As to the manner of
examination, the Rules mandate that it be conducted in the same manner as an examination during trial, that is,
through question and answer.
At this point, a query may thus be posed: in granting Concepcions motion and in actually taking her deposition, were
the above rules complied with? The CA answered in the negative. The appellate court considered the taking of
deposition before the Clerk of Court of Makati City erroneous and contrary to the clear mandate of the Rules that the
same be made before the court where the case is pending. Accordingly, said the CA, the RTC order was issued with
grave abuse of discretion.
We agree with the CA and quote with approval its ratiocination in this wise:
Unlike an examination of a defense witness which, pursuant to Section 5, Rule 119 of the previous Rules,
and now Section 13, Rule 119 of the present Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, may be taken before any
"judge, or, if not practicable, a member of the Bar in good standing so designated by the judge in the order,
or, if the order be made by a court of superior jurisdiction, before an inferior court to be designated therein,"
the examination of a witness for the prosecution under Section 15 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure (December 1, 2000) may be done only "before the court where the case is pending."32
Rule 119 categorically states that the conditional examination of a prosecution witness shall be made before the court
where the case is pending. Contrary to petitioners contention, there is nothing in the rule which may remotely be
interpreted to mean that such requirement applies only to cases where the witness is within the jurisdiction of said
court and not when he is kilometers away, as in the present case. Therefore, the court may not introduce exceptions
or conditions. Neither may it engraft into the law (or the Rules) qualifications not contemplated.33 When the words are
clear and categorical, there is no room for interpretation. There is only room for application.34
Petitioners further insist that Rule 23 applies to the instant case, because the rules on civil procedure apply
suppletorily to criminal cases.
It is true that Section 3, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules of civil procedure apply to all actions, civil
or criminal, and special proceedings. In effect, it says that the rules of civil procedure have suppletory application to
criminal cases. However, it is likewise true that the criminal proceedings are primarily governed by the Revised Rules
of Criminal Procedure. Considering that Rule 119 adequately and squarely covers the situation in the instant case, we
find no cogent reason to apply Rule 23 suppletorily or otherwise.
To reiterate, the conditional examination of a prosecution witness for the purpose of taking his deposition should be
made before the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending. Such is the clear mandate of Section
15, Rule 119 of the Rules. We find no necessity to depart from, or to relax, this rule. As correctly held by the CA, if the
deposition is made elsewhere, the accused may not be able to attend, as when he is under detention. More

importantly, this requirement ensures that the judge would be able to observe the witness deportment to enable him
to properly assess his credibility. This is especially true when the witness testimony is crucial to the prosecutions
case.
While we recognize the prosecutions right to preserve its witness testimony to prove its case, we cannot disregard
rules which are designed mainly for the protection of the accuseds constitutional rights. The giving of testimony
during trial is the general rule. The conditional examination of a witness outside of the trial is only an exception, and
as such, calls for a strict construction of the rules.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution dated August 25, 2000
and March 12, 2002, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 62551, are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 132577

August 17, 1999

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB, respondent.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Challenged in this petition for review on certiorari is the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 45399
entitled "Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb v. Hon. Amelita Tolentino, in her capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 274 of the
Regional Trial Court of Paraaque, People of the Philippines and Lauro Vizconde" which set aside the order of
respondent judge therein denying herein respondent Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb's request to take the depositions of five
(5) citizens and residents of the United States before the proper consular officer of the Philippines in Washington D.C.
and California, as the case may be.1wphi1.nt
The factual and procedural antecedents are matters of record or are otherwise uncontroverted.
Respondent Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb is one of the accused in Criminal Case No. 95-404 for Rape with Homicide
entitled "People of the Philippines v. Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, et al." presently pending before Branch 274 of the
Regional Trial Court of Paraaque, presided by Judge Amelita G. Tolentino.
During the course of the proceedings in the trial court, respondent filed on May 2, 1997, a Motion To Take Testimony
By Oral Deposition1 praying that he be allowed to take the testimonies of the following:
1.] Steven Bucher
Acting Chief, Records Services Branch
U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 Eye Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20536
U.S.A.
2.] Debora Farmer

Records Operations, Office of Records


U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Washington D.C.
U.S.A.
3.] Jaci Alston
Department of Motor Vehicles
Sacramento, California
U.S.A.
4.] Ami Smalley
Department of Motor Vehicles
Sacramento, California
U.S.A.
5.] John Pavlisin
210 South Glasell, City of Orange
California, 92666
U.S.A.
before the general consul, consul, vice-consul or consular agent of the Philippines in lieu of presenting them as
witnesses in court alleging that the said persons are all residents of the United States and may not therefore be
compelled by subpoena to testify since the court had no jurisdiction over them.
Respondent further alleged that the taking of the oral depositions of the aforementioned individuals whose
testimonies are allegedly "material and indispensable" to establish his innocence of the crime charged is sanctioned
by Section 4, Rule 24 of the Revised Rules of Court which provides that:
Sec. 4. Use of depositions. At the trial or upon the hearing of a motion or an interlocutory proceeding, any
part or all of a deposition, so far as admissible under the rules of evidence, may be used against any party
who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition or who had due notice thereof, in accordance
with any one of the following provisions:
(a) Any deposition may by used by any party for the purpose of contradicting or impeaching the
testimony of the deponent as a witness;
(b) The deposition of a party or of any one who at the time of taking the deposition was an officer,
director, or managing agent of a public or private corporation, partnership, or association which is a
party may be used by an adverse party for any purpose;

(c) The deposition of a witness whether or not a party, may be used by any party for any purpose if
the court finds: (1) that the witness is dead; (2) that the witness is out of the province and a greater
distance than fifty (50) kilometers from the place of trial or hearing, or is out of the Philippines,
unless it appears that his absence was procured by the party offering the deposition; or (3) that the
witness is unable to attend or testify because of age, sickness, infirmity, or imprisonment; or (4) that
the party offering the deposition has been unable to procure the attendance of the witness by
subpoena or (5) upon application and notice, that such exceptional circumstances exist as to make
it desirable in the interest of justice and with due regard to the importance of presenting the
testimony of witnesses orally in open court, to allow the deposition to be used;
(d) If only part of a deposition is offered in evidence by a party, the adverse party may require him
to introduce all of it which is relevant to the part introduced and any party may introduce any other
parts. (emphasis supplied).
The prosecution thereafter filed an opposition to the said motion averring that: 1.] Rule 24, Section 4 of the Rules of
Court, contrary to the representation of respondent-accused, has no application in criminal cases; 2.] Rule 119,
Section 4 of the Rules of Court on Criminal Procedure, being a mode of discovery, only provides for conditional
examination of witnesses for the accused before trial not during trial; 3.] Rule 19, Section 5 of the Rules of Court on
Criminal Procedure does not sanction the conditional examination of witnesses for the accused/defense outside
Philippine Jurisdiction.2
In an Order dated June 11, 1997, the trial court denied the motion of respondent on the ground that the same is not
allowed by Section 4, Rule 24 and Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.3
A motion for reconsideration4 thereto on the grounds that: 1.] The 1997 Rules of Court expressly allows the taking of
depositions, and 2.] Section 11 of Rule 23 of the 1997 Rules of Court expressly allows the taking of depositions in
foreign countries before a consul general, consul, vice-consul or consular agent of the Republic of the Philippines,
was likewise denied by the trial court in an order dated July 25, 1997.5
Dissatisfied, respondent elevated his cause to the Court of Appeals by way of a petition for certiorari6 naming as
respondents therein the Presiding Judge Amelita G. Tolentino, the People and private complainant Lauro Vizconde. In
the petition, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 45399, respondent Webb argued that: 1.] The taking of depositions
pending action is applicable to criminal proceedings; 2.] Depositions by oral testimony in a foreign country can be
taken before a consular officer of the Philippine Embassy in the United States; and, 3.] He has the right to completely
and fully present evidence to support his defense and the denial of such right will violate his constitutional right to due
process.
Commenting7 on the petition, the People contended that the questioned orders of the Presiding Judge are well within
the sphere of her judicial discretion and do not constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction and that if at all, they may be considered merely as errors of judgment which may be corrected by appeal
in due time because: a.] The motion failed to comply with the requirements of Section 4, Rule 119 of the Rules of
Court; b.] The conditional examination must be conducted before an inferior court; and c.] The examination of the
witnesses must be done in open court.
In his Comment,8 private respondent Lauro Vizconde sought the dismissal of the petition contending that:
1.] The public respondent did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner [now herein
respondent] Webb's motion to take testimony by oral deposition dated 29 April 1997 as well as petitioner's
motion for reconsideration dated 23 June 1997 for not being sanctioned by the Rules of Court.
a.] The public respondent correctly held that Rule 23, Section 1 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil
Procedure finds no application in criminal actions such as the case at bar.
b.] The public respondent correctly ruled that Rule 119, Section 4 of the Rules of Criminal
Procedure only provides for conditional examination of witnesses before trial but not during trial.

c.] The public respondent correctly ruled that Rule 119 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure does not
sanction the conditional examination of witnesses for the accused/defense outside of Philippine
jurisdiction.
2.] The public respondent did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner Webb's motion
to take testimony by oral deposition considering that the proposed deposition tends only to further establish
the admissibility of documentary exhibits already admitted in evidence by the public respondent.
On February 6, 1998, the Fourth Division9 of the Court of Appeals rendered judgment,10 the dispositive portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The orders of respondent judge dated 11 June 1997 (Annex "A" of
the Petition) and 25 July 1997 (Annex "B" of the Petition) are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. It is
hereby ordered that the deposition of the following witnesses be TAKEN before the proper consular officer of
the Republic of the Philippines in Washington D.C. and California, as the case maybe:
(a) Mr. Steven Bucher;
(b) Ms. Deborah Farmer;
(c) Mr. Jaci Alston;
(d) Ms. Ami Smalley; and
(e) Mr. John Pavlisin.
SO ORDERED.
From the foregoing, the People forthwith elevated its cause to this Court by way of the instant petition dispensing with
the filing of a motion for reconsideration for the following reasons: 1.] The rule that the petitioner should first file a
motion for reconsideration applies to the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure and there is no similar requirement in taking an appeal from a final judgment or order11 such as the present
appeal by certiorari; 2.] Section 4, Rule 45 in requiring a petition for review on certiorari which indicates that "when a
motion for new trial or reconsideration, if any, was filed" implies that petitioner need not file a motion for
reconsideration; 3.] The questions being raised before the Court are the same as those which were squarely raised
before the Court of Appeals;12 4.] The issues being raised here are purely legal;13 5.] There is an urgent need to
resolve the issues considering that the trial of the accused in the criminal case is about to end; and, 6.] The nature of
this case requires a speedy and prompt disposition of the issues involved.14
What are challenged before this Court are interlocutory orders and not a final Judgment. The respondent has filed his
Comment15 which We treat as an Answer. The petitioner, in turn, filed a Reply.16 The petition is ripe for decision.
In urging this Tribunal to exercise its power of review over the assailed decision of the Appellate Court, petitioner
asserts that the Court of Appeals committed serious and reversible error
I
IN RULING THAT RULE 23 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE IS APPLICABLE TO CRIMINAL
PROCEEDINGS.
II
IN RULING THAT THE DEPOSITION MAY BE TAKEN BEFORE A CONSULAR OFFICER OF THE PHILIPPINES
WHERE THE PROSPECTIVE WITNESSES RESIDE OR ARE OFFICIALLY STATIONED.
III

IN RULING THAT RESPONDENT WAS DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW BY THE TRIAL COURT.
which can be reduced to the primordial issue of whether or not the trial judge gravely abused her discretion in
denying the motion to take testimony by oral depositions in the United States which would be used in the criminal
case before her Court.
In setting aside the order of the trial judge, the Appellate Court's Fourth Division reasoned, inter alia, thus:
Settled is the rule that the whole purpose and object of procedure is to make the powers of the court fully
and completely available for justice. Thus, as the Supreme Court has ruled in Manila Railroad Co. vs.
Attorney General and reiterated in subsequent cases:
. . . The most perfect procedure that can be devised is that which give the opportunity for the most
complete and perfect exercise of the powers of the court within the limitations set by natural justice.
It is that one which, in other words, gives the most perfect opportunity for the powers of the court to
transmute themselves into concrete acts of justice between the parties before it. The purpose of
such a procedure is not to restrict the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter, but to give it
effective facility in righteous action. It may be said in passing that the most salient objection which
can be urged against procedure today is that it so restricts the exercise of the court's powers by
technicalities that part of its authority effective for justice between the parties is many times an
inconsiderable portion of the whole. The purpose of procedure is not to thwart justice. Its proper
aim is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of the contending parties. It was
created not to hinder and delay but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. It does
not constitute the thing itself which the courts are always striving to secure the litigants. It is
designed as the as the means best adapted to obtain that thing. In other words, it is a means to an
end. It is the means by which the powers of the court are made effective in just judgments. When it
loses the character of the one and takes on the other [,] the administration of justice becomes
incomplete and unsatisfactory and lays itself open to grave criticism.17
In the light of the foregoing judicial precedent, this Court finds that the public respondent gravely abused her
discretion in denying the motion to take the deposition of the witnesses for petitioner. While petitioner had
invoked Rule 23, Section 1 of the Rule of Court, which is found under the general classification of the Civil
Procedure, it does not prevent its application to the other proceedings, provided the same is not contrary to
the specific rules provided therein. Indeed, the Rules of Court is to be viewed and construed as a whole, and
if the Supreme Court had compartmentalized the same into four divisions, it was, as petitioner had claimed,
for the purpose of organization and expediency and not, for exclusivity.
To be sure, a reading of the rules on criminal procedure, specifically Section 4, Rule 119 vis--vis Section 1,
Rule 23 would reveal no inconsistency so as to exclude the application of the latter rule in criminal
proceedings. Section 4, Rule 119 refers to the conditional examination of witnesses for the
accused beforetrial, while Section 1, Rule 23 refers to the taking of deposition witnesses during trial. . . .
xxx

xxx

xxx

While the taking of depositions pending trial is not expressly provided [for] under the Rules on Criminal
Procedure, we find no reason for public respondent to disallow the taking of the same in the manner
provided for under Section 1 of Rule 23 under the circumstances of the case. To disallow petitioner to avail
of the specific remedies provided under the Rules would deny him the opportunity to adequately defend
himself against the criminal charge of rape with homicide now pending before the public respondent and,
further, [it] loses sight of the object of procedure which is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival
claims of contending parties.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Even granting arguendo that Rule 23 is to be exclusively applied to civil actions, the taking of the deposition
of petitioner's US-based witnesses should be still allowed considering that the civil action has been impliedly
instituted in the criminal action for rape with homicide. Since public respondent has jurisdiction over the civil
case to recover damages, she exercised full authority to employ all auxiliary writs, processes and other
means to carry out the jurisdiction conferred and [to] adopt any suitable process or mode of proceeding

which includes the application of the rule on depositions pending action under Rule 23 in the case pending
before her.
Second. Depositions obtained during trial in a foreign state or country may be taken before a consular office
of the Republic of the Philippines where the deponent resides or is officially stationed.18 Section 5, Rule 119
of the Rules of Court is thus clearly inapplicable in the instant case since the same relates to the
examination of witnesses under Section 4 thereof and not Section 1 of Rule 23. Consistent with the
procedure provided [for] under Rule 23, the deposition of the petitioner's witnesses, which include four (4)
officials of the United States government, will be taken before a consular officer of the Philippines where
these witnesses reside or are officially stationed, as the case may be.
The denial of petitioner's right to present his witnesses, who are residing abroad, based on a very Shaky
technical ground, is tantamount to depriving him of his constitutional right to due process. This Court
recognizes the impossibility of enforcing the right of petitioner to secure the attendance of the proposed
witnesses through compulsory process considering that they are beyond the jurisdiction of Philippine Courts.
Petitioner, however, is not without any remedy and he correctly sought to secure the testimonies of his
witness through the process of taking their depositions pending the trial of Criminal Case No. 95-404 in the
court below under Rule 23 of the Rules of Court. In any event the prosecution would have the opportunity to
cross-examine the witnesses for accused Hubert Webb (petitioner herein) since they will be given the
opportunity to cross-examine the deponents as in accordance with Section 3 to 18 of Rule 132.19
Furthermore, no prejudice would be suffered in the taking of the depositions of petitioner's US-based
witness(es). On the other hand, a denial of the same would be prejudicial to petitioner-accused since he
would be denied an opportunity to completely present his evidence, which strikes at the very core of the due
process guarantee of the Constitution. To reiterate, it is not the function of this Court to second-guess the
trial court on its ruling on the admissibility of the pieces of documentary evidence as well as the latter's
witnesses,20 but it is definitely within this court's inherent power to scrutinize, as it does in the case at bench,
the acts of respondent judge and declare that she indeed committed grave abuse discretion in issuing the
questioned Orders.
In the final analysis, this Court rules that the denial of the deposition-taking amount to the denial of the
constitutional right to present his evidence and for the production of evidence in his behalf. The denial is not
justified by the flimsy reason that Sec. 1 of Rule 23 of the Rules of Court is not applicable to the criminal
proceedings. To rule that petitioner cannot take the testimony of these witnesses by deposition it to put [a]
premium on technicality at the expense of the constitutional rights of the accused, which this court is not
inclined to do. Particularly where the issue of the guilt or innocence of the petitioner is bound to hinge
heavily upon the testimonies of his US-based witnesses, it behooves upon public respondent not only to
guarantee that accused is given a reasonable opportunity to present his evidence, but also to allow him a
certain latitude in the presentation of his evidence, lest he may be so hampered that the ends of justice may
eventually be defeated or appear to be defeated. Finally, even if respondent's contention is correct, it cannot
be denied that the case at bar includes the recovery of the civil liability of the accused, which normally is
done through a civil case.
We disagree.
As defined, a deposition is
The testimony of a witness taken upon oral question or written interrogatories, not in open court, but in
pursuance of a commission to take testimony issued by court, or under a general law or court rule on the
subject, and reduce to writing and duly authenticated, and intended to be used in preparation and upon the
trial of a civil or a criminal prosecution. A pretrial discovery device by which one party (through his or her
attorney) ask oral questions of the other party or of a witness for the other party. The person who is deposed
is called the deponent. The deposition is conducted under oath outside of the court room, usually in one of
the lawyer's offices. A transcript word for word account is made of the deposition. Testimony of [a]
witness, taken in writing, under oath or affirmation, before some judicial officer in answer to questions or
interrogatories . . .21
and the purposes of taking depositions are to: 1.] Give greater assistance to the parties in ascertaining the truth and
in checking and preventing perjury; 2.] Provide an effective means of detecting and exposing false, fraudulent claims

and defenses; 3.] Make available in a simple, convenient and inexpensive way, facts which otherwise could not be
proved except with great difficulty; 4.] Educate the parties in advance of trial as to the real value of their claims and
defenses thereby encouraging settlements; 5.] Expedite litigation; 6.] Safeguard against surprise; 7.] Prevent delay;
8.] Simplify and narrow the issues; and 9.] Expedite and facilitate both preparation and trial.22 As can be gleaned from
the foregoing, a deposition, in keeping with its nature as a mode of discovery, should be taken before and not during
trial. In fact, rules on criminal practice particularly on the defense of alibi, which is respondent's main defense in
the criminal proceedings against him in the court below states that when a person intends to rely on such a
defense, that person must move for the taking of the deposition of his witnesses within the time provided for filing a
pre-trial motion.23
It needs to be stressed that the only reason of respondent for seeking the deposition of the foreign witnesses is "to
foreclose any objection and/or rejection of, as the case may be, the admissibility of Defense Exhibits "218" and
"219"." This issue has, however, long been rendered moot and academic by the admission of the aforementioned
documentary exhibits by the trial court in its order dated July 10, 1998.24
In fact, a circumspect scrutiny of the record discloses that the evidence to be obtained through the deposition-taking
would be superfluous or corroborative at best. A careful examination of Exhibits "218" and "219" readily shows that
these are of the same species of documents which have been previously introduced and admitted into evidence by
the trial court in its order dated July 18, 1997 which We noted in Webb, et al. v. People of the Philippines, et
al.25 wherein We pointed out, among others, "[t]hat respondent judge reversed this erroneous ruling and already
admitted these 132 pieces of evidence after finding that "the defects in (their) admissibility have been cured though
the introduction of additional evidence during the trial on the merits"."26
Indeed, a comparison of Exhibit "218-A" which is a U.S. Department of State Certification issued by Joan C.
Hampton, Assistant Authenticating Officer of the said agency, for and in the name of Madeleine K. Albright, stating
that the documents annexed thereto were issued by the U.S. Department of Justice as shown by seal embossed
thereon,27 with other exhibits previously offered as evidence reveals that they are of the same nature as Exhibits "42H"28 and "42-M".29 The only difference in the documents lies in the fact that Exhibit "218-A" was signed by Joan C.
Hampton for and in behalf of the incumbent Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright whereas, Exhibits "42-H" and
"42-M" were signed by Authenticating Officer Annie R. Maddux for and in behalf of former Secretary of State Warren
Christopher.30
A comparison of Exhibit "218-B"31 with the other documentary exhibits offered by respondent, likewise discloses that
its contents are the same as Exhibits "42-I"32 and "42-N."33 The only difference in the three exhibits, which are actually
standard issue certification forms issued by the U.S. Department of Justice with blanks to be filled up, is that Exhibit
"218-B" is dated February 5, 1997 and signed by one of the U.S. Attorney General's several Deputy Assistant
Attorneys for Administration for and in her behalf, while Exhibits "42-I" and "42-N" are both dated September 21, 1995
with another of the said deputies signing both documents.34
Still comparing respondent's Exhibit "218-F,"35 which is likewise a standard issue U.S. Department of Justice
Certification Form, with other documents previously introduced as evidence reveals that it is the same as Exhibits
"39-D"36 and "42-C."37 The only differences in these documents are that Exhibit "218-F" is dated October 13, 1995
and is signed by Debora A. Farmer while Exhibits "39-D" and "42-C" are both dated August 31, 1995 and signed by
Cecil G. Christian, Jr., Assistant Commissioner, Officer of Records, INS.38
Still further scrutinizing and comparing respondent's Exhibit "218-G"39 which was also introduced and admitted into
evidence as Defense Exhibit "207-B"40 shows that the document has been earlier introduced and admitted into
evidence by the trial court an astounding seven (7) times, particularly as Exhibits "34-A", "35-F", "39-E", "42-D", "42P", "50" and "50-F."41 The only difference in these document is that they were printed on different dates. Specifically,
Exhibits "218-G" as with Exhibits "34-A", "35-F", "50", and "52-F" were printed out on October 26, 199542 whereas
Exhibit "207-B" as with Exhibits "39-E", "42-D" and "42-F" were printed out on August 31, 1995.43
In fact, the records show that respondent's: a.] application for Non-Commercial Driver's License; b.] Documentary
records based on Clet's Database Response; c.] Computer-generated thumb-print; d.] Documentary records based
on still another Clet's Database Response, and e.] The Certification issued by one Frank Zolin, Director of the State
of California's Department of Motor Vehicles, were already introduced and admitted into evidence as Defense
Exhibits "66-J", "66-K", "66-H", "66-I" and "66-L", respectively.44

It need not be overemphasized that the foregoing factual circumstances only; serves to underscore the immutable
fact that the depositions proposed to be taken from the five U.S. based witnesses would be merely corroborative or
cumulative in nature and in denying respondent's motion to take them, the trial court was but exercising its judgment
on what it perceived to be a superfluous exercise on the belief that the introduction thereof will not reasonably add to
the persuasiveness of the evidence already on record. In this regard, it bears stressing that under Section 6, Rule 113
of the Revised Rules of Court:
Sec. 6. Power of the court to stop further evidence. The court may stop the introduction of further
testimony upon any particular point when the evidence upon it is already so full that more witnesses to the
same point cannot be reasonably expected to be additionally persuasive. But this power should be
exercised with caution. (emphasis and italics supplied.)
Needless to state, the trial court can not be faulted with lack of caution in denying respondent's motion considering
that under the prevailing facts of the case, respondent had more than ample opportunity to adduce evidence in his
defense. Certainly, a party can not feign denial of due process where he had the opportunity to present his side.45 It
must be borne in mind in this regard that due process is not a monopoly of the defense. Indeed, the State is entitled
to due process as much as the accused.46 Furthermore, while a litigation is not a game of technicalities, it is a truism
that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy
administration of justice.47
The use of discovery procedures is directed to the sound discretion of the trial judge.48 The deposition taking can not
be based nor can it be denied on flimsy reasons.49 Discretion has to be exercised in a reasonable manner and in
consonance with the spirit of the law. There is no indication in this case that in denying the motion of respondentaccused, the trial judge acted in a biased, arbitrary, capricious or oppressive manner. Grave abuse of discretion ". . .
implies such capricious, and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or, in other words
where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it
must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty
enjoined or to act all in contemplation of Law."50
Certiorari as a special civil action can be availed of only if there is concurrence of the essential requisites, to
wit: (a) the tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial functions has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction
or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess or jurisdiction, and (b) there is no appeal,
nor any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law for the purpose of annulling or
modifying the proceeding. There must be a capricious, arbitrary and whimsical exercise of power for it to
prosper.51
To question the jurisdiction of the lower court or the agency exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions, the
remedy is a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. The petitioner in such
cases must clearly show that the public respondent acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Grave abuse of discretion defies exact definition, but
generally refers to "capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The
abuse of discretion must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal
to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in
an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility.
It has been held, however, that no grave abuse of discretion may be attributed to a court simply because of
its alleged misappreciation of facts and evidence. A writ of certiorari may not be used to correct a lower
tribunal's evaluation of the evidence and factual findings. In other words, it is not a remedy for mere errors of
judgment, which are correctible by an appeal or a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
In fine, certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction, not errors of procedure or mistakes in the
findings or conclusions of the lower court. As long as a court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors
committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than errors of judgment which are
reviewable by timely appeal and not by special civil action for certiorari.52
Whether or not the respondent-accused has been given ample opportunity to prove his innocence and whether or not
a further prolongation of proceedings would be dilatory is addressed, in the first instance, to the sound discretion of
the trial judge. If there has been no grave abuse of discretion, only after conviction may this Court examine such
matters further. It is pointed out that the defense has already presented at least fifty-seven (57) witnesses and four

hundred sixty-four (464) documentary exhibits, many of them of the exact nature as those to be produced or testified
to by the proposed foreign deponents. Under the circumstances, we sustain the proposition that the trial judge
commits no grave abuse of discretion if she decide that the evidence on the matter sought to be proved in the United
States could not possibly add anything substantial to the defense evidence involved. There is no showing or
allegation that the American public officers and the bicycle store owner can identify respondent Hubert Webb as the
very person mentioned in the public and private documents. Neither is it shown in this petition that they know, of their
own personal knowledge, a person whom they can identify as the respondent-accused who was actually present in
the United States and not in the Philippines on the specified dates.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals
dated February 6, 1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 45399 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of
Paraaque City is ordered to proceed posthaste in the trial of the main case and to render judgment therein
accordingly.
Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., please see separate opinion.
Puno, J., please see concurring opinion.

Separate Opinions

DAVIDE, JR., C.J., separate opinion;


I fully concur with the majority that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the application
of the defense for the taking by depositions of the testimony of its witnesses who are residents of the United States of
America. Since the trial court had already admitted the exhibits on which the said witnesses would have testified, the
taking of the depositions would have been unnecessary.
However, the issue of whether the taking of the depositions of such witnesses may be allowed in criminal cases
before the Philippine courts must be squarely resolved.
I take an affirmative stand on the issue. For one, we have Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court which
read:
Sec. 4. Application for examination of witness for accused before trial. When the accused has been held
to answer for an offense, he may, upon motion with notice to all other parties, have witnesses conditionally
examined in his behalf in the manner hereinafter provided, but not otherwise. The motion shall state: (a) the
name and residence of the witness; (b) the substance of his testimony; and (c) that the witness is so sick or
infirm as to afford reasonable ground for believing that he will not be able to attend the trial, or resides more
than 100 kilometers from the place of trial and has no means to attend the same, or that, apart from the
foregoing, other similar circumstances exist that would make him unavailable or prevent him from attending
the trial. The motion shall be supported by affidavit of the accused and such other evidence as the court may
require. (4a)
Sec. 5. Examination of defense witness; how made. If the court is satisfied that the examination of
witness for the accused is necessary, an order will be made directing that the witness be examined at a
specified time and place, and that a copy of the order be served in the fiscal within a given time prior to that
fixed for the examination. The examination will be taken before any judge or if not practicable, any member
of the Bar in good standing so designated by the judge in the order, or, if the order be granted by a court of
superior jurisdiction, before an inferior court to be designated in the order. The examination shall proceed
notwithstanding the absence of the fiscal, if it appears that he was duly notified of the hearing. A written
record of the testimony shall be taken. (5a).

These Sections refer to the conditional examination of defense witnesses, which is "one mode of perpetuating
testimony available to the accused" (REGALADO F.D., REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM, vol. 2, 1995 ed., 428). This
deposition, being to perpetuate testimony, may be done before the commencement of the trial state, or anytime
thereafter, as the need therefor arises, but before the promulgation of judgment.
Then, too, there is Section 7 of Rule 24 of the Rules of Court, which reads:
Sec. 7. Depositions pending appeal. If an appeal has been taken from a judgment of a court, including
the Court of Appeals in proper cases, or before the taking of an appeal if the time therefor has not expired,
the court in which the judgment was rendered may allow the taking of depositions of witnesses to perpetuate
their testimony for use in the event of further proceedings in the said court. In such case the party who
desires to perpetuate the testimony may make a motion in the said court for leave to take the depositions,
upon the same shall state (a) the names and addresses of the persons to be examined and the substance of
the testimony which he expects to elicit from each; and (b) the reason for perpetuating their testimony. If the
court finds that the perpetuation of the testimony is proper to avoid a failure or delay of justice, it may make
an order allowing the depositions to be taken, and thereupon the depositions may be taken and used in the
same manner and under the same conditions as are prescribed in the rules for depositions taken pending
actions.
This Section, which was formerly Section 7 of Rule 134, applies to criminal cases. (REGALADO F.D., REMEDIAL
LAW COMPENDIUM, vol. 1, 1997 ed., 322). According to Justice Regalado the procedure in Section 7 is available in
all actions, including criminal cases.1wphi1.nt
Thus, the ruling, in the case of Dasmarias Garments, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, (255 SCRA 622, 634 [1993]), is
applicable in the case at bar, to wit:
. . . . Depositions may be taken at any time after the institution of any action, whenever necessary or
convenient. There is no rule that limits deposition-taking only to the period of pre-trial or before it; no
prohibition against the taking of deposition after pre-trial. Indeed, the law authorizes the taking of depositions
of witnesses before or after an appeal is taken from the judgment of a Regional Trial Court "to perpetuate
their testimony for use in the event of further proceedings in the said court." (Rule 134, Rules of Court), and
even during the process of execution of a final and executory judgment (East Asiatic Co. v. C.I.R., 40 SCRA
521, 5440).
The only corollary issue that has to be addressed is how to take the testimony of a defense witness who is unable to
come to testify in open court because he is a resident of a foreign country. The Rule on Criminal Procedure is silent
on this. I respectfully submit, however, that the rule on the matter under Rules on Civil Procedure may be applied
suppletorily. Section 11 of Rule 23 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure is the appropriate provision. It reads:
Sec. 11. Persons before whom depositions may be taken in foreign countries. In a foreign state or
country, deposition may be taken (a) on notice before a secretary of embassy or legation, consul general,
consul, vice-consul, or consular agent of the Republic of the Philippines; (b) before such person or officer as
may be appointed by commission or under rogatory; or (c) the person referred to in Section 14 hereof. (11a,
R24)
There are provisions of the Rule on Civil Procedure which have been made applicable in criminal cases. For one, as
earlier mentioned, Section 7 of Rule 24 is applicable in criminal cases. See also the instances allowed in Caos v.
Peralta, (115 SCRA 843 [1982]); Naguiat v. Intermediate Appellate Court, (164 SCRA 505 [1988]); andCojuangco v.
Court of Appeals, (203 SCRA 619 [1991]).
Also, an authority on criminal procedure asserts that in all matters not specifically touched on by Section 6 and the
preceding Sections of Rule 119, "Rule 24, Rules of Court, ante, applies in a suppletory character, since the taking of
depositions under Rule 24 and conditional examination of defense witnesses under Section 4 and 5, Rule 119,supra,
are taken under the same circumstances and for the same purpose; that is, the preservation of a material witness'
testimony." (PAMARAN, THE 1985 RULES IN CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ANNOTATED, 1998 ed., 402).
Finally, Section 6 of Rule 1 of the 1997 Rule of Civil Procedure (formerly Sec. 2, Rule 1 of the 1964 Rules of Court),
expressly provides that the rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just,
speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.

A much stronger reason exists why deposition in criminal cases of a witness for the defense who is residing abroad
must be allowed. Involved in a criminal case is not just the status or the property of the defendant, but the life or limb
or the liberty of the accused. If, then, a deposition is allowed for a witness in a civil case, then it is with more reason
that it be allowed in a criminal case; its denial would amount to a deprivation of due process and to the accused's
right to compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses in his favor, which are guaranteed by the Bill of
Rights (Sections 1 and 14(2), Article III, Constitution).

PUNO, J., concurring opinion;


I agree that respondent Webb's Motion to Take Testimony by Oral Deposition was correctly denied by the trial court
on the ground of lack of necessity. The only reason for the filing of the motion is "to foreclose any objection and/or
rejection of, as the case may be, the admissibility of defense Exhibits "218" and "219"." It appears that said Exhibits
"218" and "219" have already been admitted by the trial court.
I write this opinion to complement the learned opinion of our Chief Justice. A quick peek at the evolution of our laws
and rules on discovery and deposition vis-a-vis the rights of an accused will provide us a clear focus of the problem at
bar.
It is a historical fact that our Rules of Court were taken from the United States. It is thus proper to examine how the
rules on discovery and deposition evolved in the United States. American legal history will reveal that the. rules on
discovery and deposition in civil litigation underwent a different evolution than their counterpart rules in criminal
litigation.1 In civil litigation, the development of these rules came at a faster speed. By the 1940's, court rules and
legislations promoted the ideal of full and open pre-trial discovery in civil cases. Thus, they provided for depositions,
interrogatories, production of documents, inspection of intangible items and physical and mental examinations. Well
to note, our first Rules of Court followed this highly developed pattern. The liberalization of discovery and deposition
rules in civil litigation highly satisfied the objective of enhancing the truth-seeking process of litigation as all relevant
evidence are immediately brought up front in the courts.
This successful experience in civil litigation triggered thoughts whether the same rules of discovery and deposition
could likewise be adopted in criminal cases. American legal history will tell us that the efforts encountered great
difficulties. Initially, American courts adopted the common law rule that courts have no inherent power to order pretrial discovery in criminal cases. They searched for legislative authorization before they exercised the power. This
judicial stance, however, was slowly eroded by the erudite view of Professor Wigmore that the common law rule was
a rule "of policy, not of power." By the 1940's, majority of the states had adopted different rules on pre-trial discovery
in criminal procedure. Some allowed the accused to move for pre-trial discovery only for specific types of evidence.
Others gave the right only to an accused pleading alibi as a defense. Even then, it was clear that by the 1950's pretrial discovery was the exception rather than the general rule in criminal procedure. Again, it is worthwhile noting that
our rules on criminal procedure followed this trend. Thus, we have section 4 of Rule 119 of our Rules of Court which
allows examination of witness for the accused only before trial.
The liberalization of the rules of discovery in criminal procedure in the United States while slow was unabated. In the
1960's, the movement received tremendous impetus from a liberal US Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl
Warren whose decisions radically expanded the rights of an accused. For years and until now, proponents and
opponents of liberal defense discovery and depositions in criminal cases continue to lock horns. Proponents of liberal
defense discovery hammer on the need to make criminal trials "less a game of blind man's bluff and more a fair
contest with the basic issues and facts disclosed to the fullest practicable extent." Opponents of liberalization argue
that three factors distinguish civil discovery from criminal discovery, viz: "(1) the criminal defendant's privilege against
self incrimination, which would not permit the fully reciprocal discovery found in civil practice; (2) the greater likelihood
that defense discovery in criminal cases would be used to facilitate successful perjury; and (3) the greater likelihood
that criminal defense discovery would lead to the intimidation of witnesses."2
The debate has been unceasing but it appears that the liberals are on the winning side. I quote the observations of
Professors LaFave and Israel,3 viz:
The debate over the merits of expanding defense discovery produced a reassessment of discovery law in
every jurisdiction. Overall, the proponents of extensive defense discovery had far more success than their
opponents. As far back as 1966, the Supreme Court spoke of "the growing realization that disclosure, rather

than suppression, of relevant materials ordinarily promotes the proper administration of criminal justice," and
referred to "the expanding body of materials, judicial and otherwise, favoring disclosure in criminal cases
analogous to the civil practice." That there is to be defense discovery in criminal cases is now taken as a
matter of course. The issues that divide the various jurisdiction today relate only to exactly how far that
discovery should be carried. Moreover, the trend has been in the direction of consistently broadening the
reach of defense discovery, as illustrated by the changes over the years in Federal Rule 16. As originally
adopted in 1946, Rule 16 simply allowed the defendant access, on a showing of materiality, to documents
obtained by the government. In 1966, Rule 16 was completely revised to grant the trial court discretion to
order discovery of a broad range of items (basically written or recorded statements of the defendant, reports
of physical and medical examinations, and relevant documents and "other tangible objects"). In 1975, there
was still another revision of Rule 16 which produced essentially the current provision. That revision further
broadened the range of discoverable statements (including, for example, the substance of oral statements of
the defendant) and made prosecutorial disclosure mandatory (rather than leaving it to the discretion of the
trial court). The original draft of the 1975 revision, as approved by the Supreme Court, would also have
required disclosure of the names, addresses, and felony conviction records of all prosecution witness, but
Congress struck that provision from the Rule as it was eventually adopted.
In contrast to Congress, many states have been willing to take defense discovery several steps beyond
current Rule 16. The American Bar Association, in 1970, recommended adoption of discovery provisions
extending substantially beyond even the broadest federal proposal, and a large, number of states revised
their discovery provisions in accordance with ABA's proposed standards. They provided for defense
discovery of a wide range of items, including not only the names of prospective prosecution witnesses, but
also any statements they had given to the police. The ABA later expanded upon even those standards and
proposed "open file" discovery. The prosecutor's disclosure obligation, under that later standard, extended to
"all the material and information within the prosecutor's possession or control." So far, however, not even the
most liberal discovery jurisdiction has been willing to adopt such an open-ended provision.
In the case of the Philippines, the move towards a more liberal discovery and deposition procedure in criminal cases
is even slower but its march, likewise, appears inexorable. There can be no stepping back for the 1987 Constitution
has gone to the extent of constitutionalizing basic rights of an accused, which has not been done in the United States.
With this new orientation of the Constitution, this Court itself has taken steps to liberalize our rules of criminal
procedure. Thus, Section 1, Rule 118 of our 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure for the first time ordered the holding
of pre-trial when the accused and the counsel agree. The fruitful experience of courts holding pre-trial in criminal
cases has impelled requests that our rules be further amended to make it mandatory. Thus, too, this Court has given
an expansive interpretation of the right of an accused to discovery procedure. In the first Webb case, we held:4
Further, petitioners charge the NBI with violating their right to discovery proceedings during their preliminary
investigation by suppressing the April 28, 1995 original copy of the sworn statement of Alfaro and the FBI
Report. The argument is novel in this jurisdiction and as it urges an expansive reading of the rights of
persons under preliminary investigation it deserves serious consideration. To start with, our Rules on
Criminal Procedure do not expressly provide for discovery proceedings during the preliminary investigation
stage of a criminal proceeding. Section 10 and 11 of Rule 117 do provide an accused the right to move for a
bill of particulars and for production or inspection of material evidence in possession of the prosecution. But
these provision apply after the filing of the Complaint or Information in court and the rights are accorded to
the accused to assist them to make an intelligent plea at arraignment and to prepare for trial.
This failure to provide discovery procedure during preliminary investigation does not, however, negate its
use by a person under investigation when indispensable to protect his constitutional right to life, liberty and
property. Preliminary investigation is not too early a stage to guard against any significant erosion of the
constitutional right to due process of a potential accused. As aforediscussed, the object of a preliminary
investigation is to determine the probability that the suspect committed a crime. We hold that the finding of a
probable cause by itself subjects the suspect's life, liberty and property to a real risk of loss or diminution. In
the case at bar, the risk to the liberty of petitioner cannot be understated for they are charged with the crime
of rape with homicide, a non-bailable offense when the evidence of guilt is strong.
Attuned to the times, our Rules have discarded the pure inquisitorial system of preliminary investigation.
Instead, Rule 112 installed a quasi-judicial type of preliminary investigation conducted by one whose high
duty is to be fair and impartial. As this Court emphasized in Rolito Go vs. Court of Appeals, "the right to have
preliminary investigation conducted before being bound over for trial for a criminal offense, and hence
formally at risk of incarceration or some other penalty, is not a mere formal or technical right; it is a

substantive right." A preliminary investigation should therefore be scrupulously conducted so that the
constitutional right to liberty of a potential accused can be protected from any material damage. We uphold
the legal basis of the right of petitioners to demand from their prosecutor, the NBI, the original copy of the
April 28, 1995 sworn statement of Alfaro and the FBI Report during their preliminary investigation
considering their exculpatory character, and hence, unquestionable materiality to the issue of their probable
guilt. The right is rooted on the constitutional protection of due process which we rule to be operational even
during the preliminary investigation to a potential accused. It is also implicit in section (3)(a) of Rule 112
which requires during the preliminary investigation the filing of a sworn complaint which shall ". . . state the
known address of the respondent and be accompanied by affidavits of the complainant and his witnesses as
well as other supporting documents. . . ."
In laying down this rule, the Court is not without enlightened precedents from other jurisdiction. In the 1963
watershed case of Brandy v. Maryland the United States Supreme Court held that "suppression of evidence
favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material to guilt or
punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Its progeny is the 1935 case
ofMooney v. Holohan which laid down the proposition that a prosecutor's intentional use of perjured
testimony to procure conviction violates due process. Thus, evolved jurisprudence firming up the
prosecutor's duty to disclose to the defense excupaltory evidence in its possession. The rationale is well put
by Justice Brennan in Brandy "society wins not only when the guilty are convicted but when the criminal
trials are fair. Indeed, prosecutors should not treat litigation like a game of poker where surprises can be
sprung and where gain by guile is not punished."
Upon assumption of office, our present Chief Justice vowed to have a court that is pro-active, a stance that will surely
promote rights more than authority. I am sure such a stance will quicken moves to liberalize further our rules on
criminal procedure on the matter of discovery and deposition taking as to strengthen the constitutional right to due
process of an accused.
[G.R. No. 137554. October 1, 2003.]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. JOHN MAMARION, Leny Leysa (Acquitted),
JULIET HARISCO, Bebot dela Rosa alias "Bebot Villarosa" (Acquitted), Benjie Bernaje (Atlarge); Sergio Mendoza alias "Bambi", alias "SM", alias "Friday" (Acquitted), Ronald
Porquez (At-large), ROLANDO V. MACLANG, CHARLITO DOMINGO, Appellants.
DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This is an automatic review of the decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City (Branch 50) in
Criminal Case No. 96-17590 finding appellants John Mamarion y Hisugan, Charlito Domingo y
Gorospe, Rolando Maclang y Ventura and Juliet Harisco y Carrera guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM, sentencing each of them to suffer the penalty of DEATH and
to indemnify solidarily the heirs of the late Roberta Cokin in the amount of P50,000.00.chanrob1es
virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
An Information for Kidnapping For Ransom was initially filed on March 11, 1996 against appellant
Mamarion together with Amado Gale, Jr. (Gale for brevity), Roger Biona and a John Doe 2 based on a
Resolution dated March 4, 1996 issued by the Acting City Prosecutor and Assistant City Prosecutor of
Bacolod City finding probable cause against them and dismissing the charges against Ronaldo Porquez
and appellants Maclang and Harisco for insufficiency of evidence. 3
On May 9, 1996, the Information was amended to include appellant Domingo as co-accused. 4
Thereafter, a Second Amended Information was filed against appellants Mamarion, Domingo, Harisco
and Maclang together with Gale, Biona, Leny Leysa, Bebot Dela Rosa @ Bebot Villarosa, Benie
Bernaje, Sergio Mendoza @ SM @ Bambi @ Friday, Ronald Porquez, John Doe, Peter Doe, Richard Doe
and Edward Doe as accused. 5 The Information reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about July 16, 1995 or and sometime prior thereto, in the City of Bacolod, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused John Mamarion, Amado,
Gale, Charlito Domingo, Roger Biona, Juliet Harisco, Leny Leysa, Bebot Dela Rosa @ Bebot Villarosa,
Benie Bernaje, Sergio Mendoza @) SM @ Bambi @ Friday, Ronald Porquez, Rolando V. Maclang,
together with John Doe, Peter Doe, Richard Doe and Edward Doe whose true names, identities and
whereabouts are still unknown, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another with the
use of firearms of different calibers by means of violence against and intimidation of person, did then,
and there, kidnap ROBERTA COKIN, detain and deprive her of her liberty for the period of more than
three (3) days for the purpose of extorting money in the amount of Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00)
from her sister, Teresita Cokin, for her (Robertas) release and that after the pay-off was intercepted
and accused John Mamarion was arrested: as a consequence thereof, victim Roberta Cokin was
inflicted multiple physical injuries on different parts of her body which caused her death, to the
damage and prejudice of her heirs.
CONTRARY TO LAW. 6
Only accused Gale and appellants Mamarion and Domingo were arraigned on January 27, 1997. The
other accused remained at-large. Gale and appellant Domingo pleaded "not guilty" while a plea of "not
guilty" was entered by the trial court for appellant Mamarion as he refused to enter any plea. 7 Trial
proceeded only with respect to Gale, appellants Mamarion and Domingo.
On March 23, 1997, Accused Leysa was arrested in Tondo, Manila. Upon his arraignment on April 30,
1997, he pleaded "not guilty." 8 Trial then ensued with respect to him.
Meanwhile, Accused Gale filed a motion, with the approval of the public prosecutor, seeking that he be
allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense, i.e., from Kidnapping for Ransom to Slight Illegal Detention.
9 Acting on said motion, the trial court conferred with the victims sister, Teresita Cokin, and the latter
agreed. 10 There being no evidence presented as yet against Gale 11 and on the condition that he will
testify for the prosecution, the trial court found no impediment to grant the motion. Gale was rearraigned and entered a plea of guilty to Slight Illegal Detention. Accordingly, the trial court rendered
a Decision dated May 13, 1997, sentencing Amado Gale as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
In view of the foregoing, the Court finds the accused Amado Gale, Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of Slight Illegal Detention defined and penalized under Art. 268 of the Revised Penal
Code, and taking into consideration the mitigating circumstances of no intention to commit so grave a
wrong and voluntary surrender, without any aggravating circumstance, the penalty that should be
imposed on the accused is prision mayor in its maximum period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law, the accused is sentenced to suffer the penalty of 4 years, 2 months and 1 day of prision
correccional as minimum, to 10 years of prision mayor as maximum. 12
On July 7, 1997, Accused Villarosa was arraigned and pleaded "not guilty," 13 and trial proceeded with
regard to him.
Accused Biona was killed some time in October 1997 during an encounter with the military in Metro
Manila. 14
Accused Mendoza was arrested on October 6, 1997, 15 and on October 27, 1997, he was arraigned, to
which he pleaded "not guilty." 16 The last to be arrested were appellants Maclang and Harisco who
were brought to court for arraignment on November 7, 1997 and both pleaded "not guilty." 17 Joint
trial was held with regard to these three accused. 18
Based on the evidence presented before it, the trial court made the following findings of facts
surrounding the kidnapping for ransom and death of Roberta Cokin:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
. . . Roberta Cokin, nicknamed Obing, is a rich Filipino-Chinese businesswoman with business interests
in Bacolod City and in the province and City of Iloilo. These varied business interest include a grocery
store, commercial buildings, real estate and agricultural landholdings. Roberta or "Obing" as she is

fondly called, lives together with her only surviving sister, Teresita Cokin, in their house at Mercedes
St., in Bacolod City. Both Roberta and Teresita are spinsters.
x

At about 11:45 in the evening of July 15, 1995, Roberta passed by her cockfarm situated in front of
the Bacolod City National High School along Libertad Street (now Henares Street) in Bacolod City. She
came from the Tangub cockpit where she attended a cockfight and she was alone driving by herself a
Toyota Hi-Lux pick-up.
Roberta never made it home. A group of armed men came and took away Roberta and her pick-up. On
the following morning, Teresita Cokin, Robertas younger sister, saw the abandoned Hi-Lux pick-up in
front of the San Sebastian Cathedral. Later, Teresita received a telephone call from one identifying
himself as Bravo, informing her that Roberta was kidnapped and would be released only after a One
Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) ransom is paid.
Andres Sumpay, the nephew of Roberta Cokin, was at the Cokin grocery early in the morning of July
15, 1995. He was minding the store when he noticed a man pacing the sidewalk in front of the store.
The man later identified as the accused John Mamarion, handed over to Andres a plastic bag
containing some papers. When this bag was later opened by Teresita Cokin, it contained the drivers
license of Roberta. Inserted in the jacket cover of the drivers license of Roberta (Exh. I), is the
ransom note (Exh J), a piece of yellow pad paper on which appears, in Robertas own handwriting, the
following:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Teresita, please give the bearer One Million (P1,000,000.00) for I am kidnap by them. Dont tell the
police or any law enforcer for my security reason." (Sgd) Obing. "Please produce immediately. Same"
Teresita had in mind to follow Obings instruction and keep the police out of the incident but without
her knowledge, her nephew, Andres Sumpay, with the help of a family friend a retired policeman
Graciano Reyes, reported the kidnapping to the NBI. Teresita was at first furious when the NBI started
to investigate but as she could do nothing more, she accepted and welcomed the NBIs intervention.
The NBI sought the assistance of the Bacolod Anti-Syndicated Crime Unit (BASCU) a unit of the
Bacolod City Police specifically organized for the purpose of going after syndicated crimes and big-time
criminals. The NBI set up shop in the house of Cokin and monitored the calls made by the kidnappers.
When Bravo made follow-up calls for the payment of the ransom money, Teresita, following the
instructions of the NBI, demanded that she be allowed to talk with her sister. Teresita heard the voice
of Roberta over the telephone but their conversation was very brief. All that Roberta said was for her
sister to be obedient to the wishes of her kidnappers. Bravo thereafter told Teresita that the ransom
money is raised to Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00). The NBI monitoring the call failed to trace its
origin as the call was made with the use of a cellular telephone.
Bravos last call was made in the afternoon of July 20, 1995. Teresita had already raised the amount of
Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00) in cash and Bravo wants the money to be delivered at the Holiday
Restaurant in the place which is known as the Shopping Center. The person who is carrying the money
should wear a red cap and the money should be given to one who will identify himself as Bravo. The
pay-off time was at 5:30 p.m.
The NBI and the BASCU laid out a plan to apprehend the kidnappers and recover the ransom money
during the pay-off. An NBI agent, Ed Rasco, together with a Bacolod City policeman, concealed
themselves inside the KC-20 pick-up car driven by Mario Mahusay when the latter left to deliver the
ransom money. Other BASCU personnel posted themselves at strategic places around Holiday
Restaurant.
Mario Mahusay was very conspicuous with his red cap inside the Holiday Restaurant at about 5:30
p.m. that day, July 20, 1995. When the restaurants telephone rung, Mario was told that someone
would like to talk with him. It was Bravo on the other end of the line and he instructed Mario to take a

taxi and proceed to the Tops Bowling Lanes which is about a little less than a kilometer away.
Fortuitously, a taxi was on hand when Mario stepped out of the restaurant. Mario boarded the taxi and
it immediately sped away.
The NBI and the BASCU men were caught unprepared by the sudden turn of events. Their
communication system heated up with frenzied calls and instructions. Jumping on their vehicles, they
sped northward following the route taken by the taxi.
The taxi, with Mario Mahusay on board, stopped in front of Tops Bowling Lanes and Mario alighted. He
went inside the building and waited. He did not wait long as in a few moments, a man came and
identified himself as Bravo. Mario delivered the bags containing the Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00)
to the man who took them. The man gave Mario P50.00 and they both left the premises of Tops.
The BASCU team, on board their service vehicle, found no trace of the taxi. They proceeded to the
Ceres bus terminal at the Shopping Center and looked over the buses and the passengers hoping to
find suspicious looking characters. Not finding any, they again boarded their service vehicle and moved
towards the direction of the Queen of Peace Church (Hua Ming Church). The church is just near the
Tops Bowling Alley.
Before the BASCU team could reach the vicinity of the church, they chanced upon a man with a bag
walking hurriedly. When accosted, the man fired at the BASCU team. After a brief firefight and the
explosion of a grenade, the man was subdued. The bags containing the ransom money were
recovered. The BASCU team also took from the man a .357 caliber homemade revolver with
ammunitions and a holster (Exhs. A, B, C and D). The man was later identified as John Mamarion.
x

The firearm recovered from Mamarion (Exh. A) was marked by Office Tubongbanua with the initial
"JM" and it was indorsed to the NBI together with the live ammunitions (Exh. B), the spent shells
(Exh. C) and the holster (Exh. D). The bags containing the ransom money was also turned over to the
NBI.
x

The remains of Obing Cokin was discovered in a shallow grave in a secluded area of a sugarcane
plantation in the town of Anilao, Iloilo on August 7, 1995. . . .
x

Teresita Cokin positively identified the corpse to be that of her elder sister, Obing. There is absolutely
no doubt in this identification as Teresita is intimately familiar with the features of her sister, including
her dentures. Moreover, she knew the blouse of Obing which has a red and white fish design and a
long sleeve. Accordingly, Teresita executed an affidavit of identification allowing Dr. Ricardo H.
Jaboneta, Medico-Legal Officer of the NBI to autopsy the remains of Roberta Cokin.
x

Roberta died of "Traumatic shock, secondary to multiple physical injuries." The autopsy was conducted
on August 8, 1995. Dr. Jaboneta opines that Roberta died not earlier than August 1, 1995 and not
later then August 5, 1995. 19
The trial court relied principally on the testimony of Gale together with the corroborating testimonies
of the other prosecution witnesses, namely: Andres Sumpay, Teresita Cokin and Mario Mahusay as to

appellant Mamarion, establishing the participation of appellants in the commission of the crime of
Kidnapping with Ransom, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
(1) June 18, 1995 accused Ronaldo Porquez (at-large) together with appellants John Mamarion and
Charlito Domingo, Johns brother, Felipe "Oloy" Mamarion 20 and Gale, held a meeting at the Ocean
City Restaurant in Iloilo City wherein Porquez introduced the plan of kidnapping Roberta Cokin for the
ransom of one million pesos to be participated in by the group as follows Porquez will finance the
operation in Iloilo City, Gale will identify the victim and monitor her activities and the brothers
Mamarion and Domingo were the ones who will abduct the victim; 21
(2) June 19 to 22, 1995 the group, consisting of the brothers Mamarion, Domingo and Gale, went
around Iloilo and Bacolod City looking for a safehouse but was not successful; while they were in
Bacolod City, the group used the Mitsubishi Lancer driven by Gale and owned by his cousin, Atty.
Tranquilino Gale; 22
(3) June 22, 1995 Gale met appellant Maclang for the first time in appellant Hariscos duplex in
Capitol Heights, Bacolod City; in the afternoon of the same day, Bale, Oloy Mamarion, appellants
Mamarion and Domingo proceeded to Hariscos store in Gatuslao-Gonzaga street, where appellant
Harisco gave money to appellant Mamarion; they then went to Bata, Taculing and Mansilingan, looking
for a safehouse; finding none, Gale brought them back to the duplex in Capitol Heights and appellant
Maclang paid him P500.00 for his services; 23
(4) June 23, 1995 Gale brought the group to Banago wharf and he was instructed by appellant
Mamarion to come back for them in the morning of July 3, 1995; 24
(5) July 3, 1995 Accused Biona, came into the picture; he arrived from Manila and was in
camouflage uniform and armed;25cralaw:red
(6) July 6, 1995 a meeting was again held at the Ocean City Restaurant; Porquez informed Gale,
the brothers Mamarion, Domingo, and Biona that the kidnapping will take place in Bacolod City and
that appellants Maclang and Harisco will provide the funds in Bacolod City; 26
(7) July 10, 1995 at 5:30 in the morning, the group had a breakfast meeting in Hariscos duplex,
and appellants Maclang and Harisco gave "instructions" to the group; Maclang informed the group that
Roberta Cokin will be abducted at the Tangub cockpit on July 15, 1995 while Harisco said that it will be
appellant Mamarion who will get Roberta as they trust him, and she will finance the operation; Harisco
then borrowed the Lancer from Gale for 4 days, paid Gale P2,000.00 as rent, and told Gale that his
services will not be needed in the interim; appellant Mamarion told Gale to be back on July 14, 1995;
27
(8) July 15, 1995
3:00 p.m. Appellants Mamarion and Domingo, alias "Jack", Biona, two unidentified persons and
Gale met in the public plaza, as agreed upon; Gale was instructed by Mamarion to drive to Tangub
cockpit; on the way there, Domingo and Oloy Mamarion alighted at Goldenfield; upon reaching the
cockpit, appellant Mamarion and Biona went down and Gale was instructed by appellant Mamarion to
come back at 8:00 p.m.; 28
8:00 p.m. Gale fetched appellant Mamarion and Biona, and they proceeded to Goldenfield where
Gale saw Oloy Mamarion and appellant Domingo having drinks at an open-space store; 29
11:00 p.m. Gale heard appellant Mamarion receive a message on his handset from a female voice,
after which they left Goldenfield; while in traffic, they saw the white Hi-Lux pick-up of Roberta Cokin
which they tailed; when they reached Cokins cock farm in front of the Bacolod City High School, they
saw her unloading several boxes and appellant Mamarion told Gale to park 20-25 meters away;
appellants Mamarion and Domingo then got off the car and proceeded towards Cokins pick-up while
Biona told Gale to move away; they parked in Libertad Street and stayed there for 20 minutes; when
Biona received a message in his handset, he told Gale to leave Libertad Street and when they passed
by the cockfarm, Cokins pick-up was no longer there; they proceeded to a newly-cemented portion

between Homesite and Bata Subdivision, and saw Cokins pick-up there; appellant Mamarion was
holding Cokins right hand while appellant Domingo was holding her left; she was struggling to free
herself; upon seeing this, Gale cried as he took pity on Cokin; Gale was told to transfer to the victims
pick-up and together with Oloy Mamarion, they parked the pick-up in front of the Bacolod Cathedral;
they alighted and went to the State Theater; meanwhile, appellants Mamarion and Domingo together
with Biona, who were in the Lancer previously driven by Gale, proceeded towards Homesite; after an
hour, appellant Mamarion arrived at the State Theater on board the Lancer, and Oloy Mamarion and
Gale boarded the car; they went to a small house situated on a vacant lot in Homesite; appellant
Mamarion left; 30
(9) July 16, 1995
6:00 a.m. Appellant Mamarion came back, and with Gale and Oloy Mamarion, they went to
Hariscos duplex; Gale remained in the car; appellant Mamarion came back and they picked up
appellant Domingo; the three drove to the Cokin building in Lopez Jaena-Libertad Street, and parked
along the street; Gale stayed behind in the car while appellants Mamarion and Domingo alighted;
Domingo was holding a piece of yellow paper; shortly thereafter, the two came back and Domingo
mentioned that the person who received the note was mestizo-looking; they proceeded to the public
plaza and Gale saw appellant Mamarion talking in a public phone booth at Gonzaga street; 31
at around 6:00 a.m., Andres Sumpay noticed a man wearing a cap, pacing back and forth in front
of the Cokin Grocery; the man handed to him a plastic bag containing some papers which he later
found out to be the drivers license of the victim; he gave the bag to Cokins house helper, and told her
to give it to Teresita Cokin; Andres Sumpay later identified the man as appellant Mamarion; 32
Teresita Cokin, after attending the 5:00 a.m. mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral, saw Robertas
pick-up in front of the church; when she got home she received a phone call from a certain Bravo who
asked her if she got the ransom note with the victims drivers license; she asked Andres Sumpay
about it, and he told her that he gave it to Amparing, who placed it on the table; she then got the
drivers license and ransom note; 33
after appellant Mamarion used the public phone, he went back to the car and told Gale that he
talked to Teresita who got angry because there was blood in the pick-up; they went to Tops Bowling
Lanes on 6th Street and appellant Mamarion alighted and went inside; when appellant Mamarion went
back to the car, he told Gale that Teresita was still angry; they returned to the vacant lot and waited
until evening; Gale told appellant Mamarion that the Lancers papers are ready and he has to leave on
the 18th to bring it to Manila; he referred Benjie Bernaje as the one who will substitute him in driving
them around; 34
(10) July 17, 1995 Gale and appellant Mamarion went to see Bernaje, who agreed to substitute for
Gale; on the way to Banago wharf, they stopped by Tops Bowling Lanes where appellant Mamarion
made another phone call to Teresita, asking if the money is ready; in Banago, appellant Mamarion
gave the Lancers key to Gale, and told Gale that he is going to Iloilo; 35
(11) July 19, 1995
Gale, together with the Lancer, arrived in Manila in the afternoon, and proceeded to Atty.
Tranquilino Gales house in Alabang; 36
Teresita Cokin received another phone call from Bravo; she was able to talk to Roberta who told her
to obey her captors wishes; Bravo told her that they are raising the ransom amount to 2 million
pesos; 37
(12) July 20, 1995 Mario Mahusay, the Cokins driver, handed the ransom money to a man wearing
a red cap who identified himself as Bravo, at the Tops Bowling Lanes; Mahusay later pointed to
appellant Mamarion as the man who posed as Bravo; members of the Bacolod Anti-Syndicated Crime
Unit (BASCU) team who were monitoring the pay-off apprehended appellant Mamarion in front of the
Hua Ming Church after a brief gun fight; 38

The trial court found appellants Mamarion, Domingo, Maclang and Harisco guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Kidnapping with Ransom in its Decision dated October 7, 1998, the dispositive
portion of which reads as follows:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, this Court Finds the accused JOHN MAMARION y HISUGAN and CHARLITO
DOMINGO y GOROSPE GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as PRINCIPAL BY DIRECT PARTICIPATION and
the accused ROLANDO MACLANG y VENTURA and JULIET HARISCO y CARRERA GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt as PRINCIPALS BY INDUCEMENT and all of them as CO-CONSPIRATORS of the crime
of KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM defined and penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code as
amended. They are all sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH. By way of civil liability, they
are all ordered to pay solidarily the heirs of the late Roberta Cokin the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos
(P50,000.00) as indemnification for her death.
The accused JOSE VILLAROSA, LENY LEYSA and SERGIO MENDOZA are all acquitted as their guilt have
not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Their immediate release is ordered unless they are
detained for some other cause. 39
Hence, this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
In their respective briefs, appellants raise the following assignments of errors, to wit:chanrob1es
virtual 1aw library
For appellant John Mamarion:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE TESTIMONY OF AMADO GALE, JR. AGAINST
ACCUSED JOHN MAMARION.
2. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING ACCUSED JOHN MAMARION GUILTY BEYOND A
REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM AND FOR THE DEATH OF ROBERTA
COKIN. 40
For appellant Charlito Domingo:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF PROSECUTION
WITNESSES.
2. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISCREDITING THE TESTIMONIES AND EVIDENCE FOR APPELLANT
CHARLITO DOMINGO, PARTICULARLY HIS DEFENSE OF ALIBI.
3. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING APPELLANT CHARLITO DOMINGO ON REASONABLE
DOUBT. 41
For appellant Juliet Harisco:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING JULIET HARISCO OF KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM AND
SENTENCING HER TO DEATH WITHOUT SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE.
A.1 PARTICIPATION AS PRINCIPAL BY INDUCEMENT AND CONSPIRACY ON THE PART OF JULIET
HARISCO ARE NOT ESTABLISHED.
A.2 AMADO GALE IS A POLLUTED AND INCREDIBLE WITNESS, WHOSE TESTIMONY IS NOT
CORROBORATED BY ANY OTHER EVIDENCE.
A.3 THE TESTIMONY OF AMADO GALE, A CONFESS (sic) CO-CONSPIRATOR IS NOT ADMISSIBLE IN
THE ABSENCE OF INDEPENDENT EVIDENCE OF CONSPIRACY.

B. THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING AS SINCERE, CREDIBLE AND TRUTHFUL THE
TESTIMONY OF AMADO GALE, AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN THE PLANNING AND ACTUAL KIDNAPPING
FOR RANSOM OF HER FORMER EMPLOYER, ROBERTA COKIN, DESPITE THE MANY INCONSISTENCIES
ON MATERIAL POINTS.
C. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED JULIET HARISCO ON THE BASIS OF THE SOLE
AND UNCORROBORATED TESTIMONY OF AMADO GALE DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE LATTER FAILED
ON TWO (2) OCCASIONS TO IDENTIFY HER PERSON.
D. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ARBITRARILY ACCEPTING HOOK, LINE AND SINKER THE
EXPLANATION OF AMADO GALE THAT HE DID NOT IDENTIFY ACCUSED JULIET HARISCO (AND COACCUSED ROLANDO MACLANG) BECAUSE HE WAS AFRAID FOR HIS LIFE AND THAT OF HIS FAMILY.
E. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF JOE JOVEN AND
JOI SIMPAS, BJMP SECURITY ESCORTS OF AMADO GALE DURING THE AUGUST 8, 1996
REINVESTIGATION, WHO TESTIFIED THAT, DURING AFORESAID HEARING IN ILOILO CITY, AMADO
GALE ACTED NORMALLY AND DID NOT APPEAR TO BE NERVOUS OR APPREHENSIVE AND
FURTHERMORE, THAT AMADO GALE DID NOT GO TO THE COMFORT ROOM AS HE ALLEGED WHERE HE
WAS HANDED A WRITTEN DEATH THREAT.
F. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED 1N CONVICTING ACCUSED JULIET HARISCO DESPITE THE
PROSECUTIONS FAILURE TO ESTABLISH MOTIVE ON HER PART FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE CRIME
CHARGED.
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING JULIET HARISCO BASED ON REASONABLE DOUBT AND
THE CONSTITUTIONAL PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE IN HER FAVOR.
III
THE CONVICTION OF JULIET HARISCO IS A GROSS INJUSTICE THAT REQUIRES IMMEDIATE
VINDICATION AND RECTIFICATION BY THE EARLY RESOLUTION OF HER APPEAL.
IV
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING NEW TRIAL. 42
For appellant Rolando Maclang:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING PRINCIPAL ACCUSED AMADO GALE TO CHANGE HIS PLEA OF
NOT GUILTY TO A LESSER OFFENSE OF SLIGHT ILLEGAL DETENTION IN CONSIDERATION OF HIS
UNDERTAKING TO TESTIFY AS ONE OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED, ROLANDO V. MACLANG BASED ON THE
UNCORROBORATED TESTIMONY OF PRINCIPAL ACCUSED TURNED PROSECUTION WITNESS, AMADO
GALE, WHOSE PREVIOUS TESTIMONY IN THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION STAGE WAS TOTALLY
REJECTED BY THE TWO (2) SETS OF INVESTIGATORS, AND WAS NOT MADE THE BASIS OF
INDICTING THE ACCUSED.

III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE TESTIMONY OF PRINCIPAL ACCUSED TURNED
PROSECUTION WITNESS AMADO GALE IS ENTITLED TO FULL FAITH AND CREDIT. 43
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) supports the convictions handed down by the trial court.
However, it recommends that the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 should be
shouldered by each of the appellants, following the award made by the Court in People v. Yambot,
G.R. No. 120350, October 13, 2000. 44
The Court will first determine whether or not the trial court erred in allowing Gale to plead to a lesser
offense in consideration of testifying as a prosecution witness.
Appellants assail Gales plea to a lesser offense arguing that it should have been made during the plea
bargaining stage of the trial and that it should not be subject to the condition that he will testify
against appellants. In the Brief for the State, the OSG maintains that Gale was validly discharged as a
state witness. Under the circumstances, it is not correct to state that Gale was discharged as a state
witness under Section 9, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. Gale was allowed to change his plea pursuant
to the then prevailing Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, 45 which provided:chanrob1es virtual
1aw library
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 charges, or is cognizable by a court of lesser jurisdiction
than the trial court. No amendment of the complaint or information is necessary.
A conviction under this plea, shall be equivalent to a conviction of the offense charged for purposes of
double jeopardy.
Records show that during the May 13, 1997 hearing, the Chief State Prosecutor manifested that he
has approved Gales motion to be allowed to plead to a lesser offense, i.e. Slight Illegal Detention. 46
Private complainant Teresita Cokin, upon query of the trial court, consented to Gales offer of plea to a
lesser offense Slight Illegal Detention. 47
It is immaterial that said plea was not made during the pre-trial stage or that it was made only after
the prosecution already presented several witnesses. In People v. Villarama, Jr., 48 a 1992 case, the
trial court allowed the accused therein to change his plea even after the prosecution had rested its
case, applying the herein above-quoted Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. The Court
elucidated, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Plea bargaining in criminal cases, is a process whereby the accused and the prosecution work out a
mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval. It usually involves the
defendants pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of the counts of a multi-count
indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that for the graver charge. Ordinarily, plea-bargaining
is made during the pre-trial stage of the criminal proceedings. However, the law still permits the
accused sufficient opportunity to change his plea thereafter. Thus, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court,
Section 2 thereof, provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
x

However, the acceptance of an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense under the aforequoted rule is
not demandable by the accused as a matter of right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the
sound discretion of the trial court.
In the case at bar, the private respondent (accused) moved to plead guilty to a lesser offense after the
prosecution had already rested its case. In such situation, jurisprudence has provided the trial court
and the Office of the Prosecutor with a yardstick within which their discretion may be properly

exercised. Thus, in People v. Kayanan, we held that the rules allow such a plea only when the
prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to establish the guilt of the crime charged. 49
(Emphasis supplied)
Gales testimony was crucial to the prosecution as there was no other direct evidence linking
appellants to the commission of the crime. Hence, the trial court did not err in allowing Gale to plead
guilty to a lesser offense.
The Court will now determine: (1) whether or not the trial court erred in giving full faith and credit to
the testimony of Gale; and (2) whether or not the participation and conspiracy of the four appellants
in the commission of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
On the first issue:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
As a general rule, the testimony of a co-conspirator is not sufficient for the conviction of the accused
unless other evidence supports such testimony. 50 There is, however, an exception to said rule. In
People v. Sala, 51 the Court said:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
It is true that the testimony of a co-conspirator is not sufficient for the conviction of the accused
unless such testimony is supported by other evidence. Such testimony comes from a polluted source
and, therefore, must be received with caution. As an exception, however, the testimony of a coconspirator, even if uncorroborated, will be considered sufficient if given in a straightforward manner
and it contains details which could not have been the result of deliberate afterthought. 52 (Emphasis
supplied)
In upholding the credibility of Gale, the trial court stated in its decision, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw
library
The testimony of Amado Gale on how the conspiracy to kidnap Roberta Cokin was hatched and
implemented resounds with all the earmarks of sincerity and truth. His testimony is sox (sic) rich with
details of persons, time, places and things and portrays with vivid imagery the action and the
happenings as he saw them. This is the kind of testimony that carries the hallmarks of honesty and
truth.
Testimonies which are unequivocal, forthright and replete with details are seals of self-authentication
in their credibility.
Moreover, Amado Gale is only a driver whose educational attainment is only Grade II. It will require a
good measure of ingenuity to invent a story of kidnapping, abundant with all the gory details, an
ingenuity which Amado certainly do (sic) not possess. 53 . . .
Appellants take exception to such finding arguing that the prosecutors had previously rejected Gales
testimony during the second re-investigation and his testimony is incredible and full of inconsistencies.
The Court is not convinced.
The trial courts assessment of Gale as a credible witness and the credibility of his testimony is binding
upon the Court. This is so because the trial court had the opportunity to observe and examine the
witness conduct and demeanor on the witness stand, having personally heard and observed him, and
thus, it is in a better position to decide the question of his credibility. 54
A perusal of the transcripts of Gales testimony confirms the trial courts assessment. Notably, Gale
testified twice. The first time was against appellants Mamarion and Domingo as well as accused
Villarosa and Leysa. The second instance was against appellants Maclang and Harisco,
and, AccusedMendoza. All throughout his testimony, his narration of the events, from the moment he
was first taken in by the group on June 18, 1995 up to the time he was fetched by his wife and the
authorities in Laguna on September 25, 1995, Gale was consistent in his account. Even during the
rigorous cross-examination conducted by appellants counsel, Gale was steadfast in his account of the
commission of the crime and the participation of all appellants.

The fact that the trial court found the testimony of another prosecution witness Ruperto Legarda, Jr. to
be replete with inconsistencies and incongruities pertaining to significant and important details and
"suffers from serious improbabilities" does not lessen the credibility of Gale.
The testimony of Gale, sans that of Legarda, Jr., is sufficient to convict appellants. Truth is established
not by the number of witnesses but by the quality of their testimonies. 55 The testimony of a single
witness if positive and credible is sufficient to support a conviction, as convictions rest not on the
number of witnesses, but on the credibility of the testimony of even one witness who is able to
convince the court of the guilt of the accused beyond a shadow of doubt. 56
Appellants Maclang and Harisco insist that Gales testimony is incredible and replete with
inconsistencies. They maintain that Gale was inconsistent when: (1) he testified on July 7, 1997 that
he saw Maclang for the first time in the morning of June 22, 1995 at the duplex seated at the balcony;
while during his December 17, 1997 testimony, he said that when he fetched Mamarions group on
June 22, 1995 at the duplex, he saw Maclang seated on the chair facing the table, and that he already
knew Maclang because the latter used to attend occasions hosted by Porquez for whom Gale used to
work; 57 (2) he did not state in his July 7, 1997 testimony when and where the kidnapping will take
place as discussed during their July 10, 1995 meeting; while in his December 17, 1997 testimony, he
specified that Maclang said on July 10, 1995 that Roberta Cokin will be kidnapped on July 15, 1995 at
the Tangub cockpit; 58 and (3) during the August 8, 1996 re-investigation, he said that Mamarion and
Roger Biona informed him that the duplex house was owned by appellant Harisco, while when further
examined, he said that he found out that the duplex was owned by Harisco only after his affidavit was
taken. 59
These alleged inconsistencies, if they can be considered as such, are negligible and merely refer to
minor details that do not bear relevance on the material and significant fact that appellants were part
of the group which concocted and carried out the kidnapping of Roberta Cokin.
Moreover, while it is true that, Gale did not state during his July 7, 1997 testimony that the details of
the kidnapping were discussed during the groups July 10, 1995 breakfast meeting at the duplex
house, it is because the prosecution did not ask him particularly as to what took place during such
breakfast conference. What was asked of him during that portion of his direct examination merely
pertained to his companions at that time, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Now, on July 10, 1995 in the morning, where were you?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A On July 10, I went to the Duplex house to fetch John Mamarion alias "Oloy" and Roger Biona. And
that was the time I recognized Juliet Harisco.
ATTY. BANZON:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Now, in that breakfast conference with Major Maclang and Juliet Harisco on July 10, 1995, who were
the other persons present in the morning of July 10, 1995?
A I saw some people. Some people are matured and some are young. I dont know their names but I
can recognize them by face if I saw again.
Q How about John Mamarion, Felipe "Oloy" Mamarion, alias "Jack" and Roger Biona, were they also in
that conference?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A Yes, sir, they were present while Major Maclang and Juliet Harisco instructed them while they were
eating their breakfast.
Q Now, Mr. Gale, after that breakfast conference on July 10, 1995, do you know where did you
proceed?

WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library


A After the breakfast conference, Juliet Harisco told me that she will borrow or rent the car for four (4)
days. She will pay the car Five Hundred (P500.00) Pesos, a day, because they are going to North
Negros for a very confidential transaction and I am not needed. 60
Obviously, Gale could not have testified as to the details of their breakfast meeting because proper
questions on direct examination were not propounded by the prosecution. The above-quoted
testimony cannot be considered an inconsistency but rather it is the result of an omission on the part
of the prosecutor who conducted the direct examination. It must be emphasized that a response to a
question is not to be isolated in relation to other queries and answers thereto. 61 The rule is that
testimonies must be taken in their entirety. 62
Thus, during the cross-examination of Gale by counsel for Mamarion on July 24, 1997, the Court finds
that Gale elucidated on the participation of appellant Maclang, viz.:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
ATTY. ROMERO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q You testified here that while in Bacolod City, there was an occasion that you ate breakfast at the
duplex house at Capitol Heights, wherein Rolando Maclang, during that breakfast suggested that the
kidnapping of Roberta Cokin will be in Bacolod City?
A Yes, sir.
ATTY. ROMERO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q And during that meeting, what Major Maclang had only told you group that the kidnapping will be in
Bacolod City, and that is all?
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Only "said." Maclang said.
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A Yes, sir.
ATTY. ROMERO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q And that was all that Maclang said in that meeting?
A There were many other things.
x

ATTY. ROMERO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library


Q Now, in Iloilo City, what was told to you by Ronal Porquez was that, "We will kidnap a certain
businesswoman in Bacolod City." And while in Bacolod, it was Rolando Maclang who finally decided
that the kidnapping will be held in Bacolod City. That is your testimony here in court, is that correct?
x
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

A Yes, sir.
x

COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library


Q Porquez in that meeting in Iloilo never mentioned Rolando Maclang and to be the person who will
meet you here in Bacolod City? Is that correct or not?
A Yes, he has mentioned that.
ATTY. ROMERO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q What was the statement about Rolando Maclang made by Roland Porquez?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A That here in Bacolod, everything will be taken cared of by Major Maclang. 63
This is further reinforced when Gale testified about the participation of appellants Maclang and Harisco
on December 17, 1997, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
x

Q Now, after arriving at Bacolod City on July 8, 1995, where did you and your group proceed?
A We proceed directly to the duplex house at Capitol Heights, where Rolando Maclang and Juliet
Harisco live.
x

ATTY. BANZON:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library


Q So what happened, when you arrived at the duplex house from San Carlos on July 8, 1995?
A John Mamarion, Carlito Domingo, Roger Biona, and Oloy Mamarion alighted, and then I proceeded to
Mansilingan. They instructed me again to come back the following day, that is already July 9, 1995.
Q Now, as instructed by them, were you able to fetch them in the morning of July 9, 1995 at the
duplex house?
A Yes, sir.
Q After fetching them in the morning of July 9, 1995, where did you and your group proceed?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A We went around the city to look for a safehouse. We proceeded to Goldenfield, Mansiligan, Airport,
and Tangub, until they decided to go back to the duplex . . .
x

A We went back to the duplex house at Capitol Heights. John Mamarion instructed me again to fetch

them early in the morning the following day.


Q Now, on July 10, 1995 in the morning, as instructed by John Mamarion, were you able to fetch
them?
A In the morning I went back to the duplex house and when I arrived there, Juliet Harisco and
Rolando Maclang were there as well as the group. We took our breakfast there and had a meeting.
Q Now, in that breakfast meeting where you also attended and participated on July 10, 1995, who are
present?
A Major Maclang, Juliet Harisco, John Mamarion, Roger Biona, Charlito Domingo, Oloy Mamarion and
myself, and some young persons whom I do not know, but I could identify them if ever I could see
them.
ATTY. BANZON:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Now, what transpired in the breakfast meeting that you said you attended on the morning of July
10, 1995 with Major Maclang and Juliet Harisco among others?
A Major Maclang told us that Roberta Cokin will be kidnapped at the cockpit of Tangub.
Q What else has transpired in that breakfast meeting?
A In the course of our meeting, Juliet Harisco stated further that John Mamarion will be the one to get
Roberta Cokin because they trust John Mamarion, and she will be the one to finance. She told me that
only the group will go, and that I will not go with them. So, I told them that if ever they will use the
car, they have to pay me in advance the amount of P500.00 pesos per day because they will use the
car for four (4) days.
Q What else happened in that breakfast meeting?
A Juliet Harisco stated further that they will go to Central Market, and that I will follow them.
Q When you said they will leave for the Central Market, and your group will follow them, who were
those are you referring to?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A John Mamarion, Charlito Domingo, Roger Biona and myself. It was Juliet Harisco who instructed us
to follow them because we will get the money and the group, composed of John Mamarion, Charlito
Domingo, Roger Biona, Oloy Mamarion and myself will get the money in the amount of P2,000.00
pesos from her.
Q Were you able to receive that P2,000.00 pesos from Juliet Harisco on July 10, 1995?
A Yes, sir. After I received the P2,000.00 pesos, they proceeded north, but they dropped me at the
corner of Pepsi/Bata because John Mamarion told me that I could not go with them as their travel is
confidential. He instructed me that I have to wait again in that same place where they dropped me on
July 14, 1995 when they will return the vehicle.
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q This P2,000.00 pesos represents the advance rental of the vehicle?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A Yes, Your Honor.

ATTY. BANZON:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library


Q Now, lets go back to that breakfast meeting on July 10, 1995. You said earlier in your direct
testimony that Major Maclang told you and the group that Roberta Cokin would be kidnapped in the . .
. at the Tangub cockpit. My question is, was there a date mentioned as to when the kidnap should be
effected or made?
WITNESS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A Yes, sir. Because he knew that Roberta Cokin would be joining the derby.
Q What date?
A July 15, 1995. But he stated further that whatever happens, he will not be pointed to as a
participant in the kidnapping. 64 (Emphasis supplied)
Furthermore, while it is true that the names of Maclang and Harisco do not appear in the affidavits
previously executed by Gale and that the latter failed to identify them during the re-investigation of
the case, still, they were specifically pointed out and unequivocally identified by Gale during the trial
as those who were with the group when the plan to kidnap the victim was hatched. Such testimony
prevails over the affidavits which Gale previously executed. It is settled that whenever there is
inconsistency between the affidavit and the testimony of a witness in court, the testimony commands
greater weight considering that affidavits taken ex parte are inferior to testimony given in court, the
former being almost invariably incomplete and oftentimes inaccurate. 65
Moreover, delay in revealing the identity of the perpetrators of a crime does not necessarily impair the
credibility of a witness, especially where the delay is explained. 66 Gale was able to satisfactorily
explain why he did not name or identify Maclang and Harisco in his affidavits and during the reinvestigation of the case. On cross-examination by counsel for appellant Maclang, Gale staunchly
declared: "I purposely did not make mention of Major Maclang because the person who was taking my
affidavit was a policeman and I am afraid because Major Maclang was also a policeman, I was afraid
because even Oloy Mamarion, our companion was even killed." 67 Gale further explained that he was
afraid because Major Maclang and Juliet Harisco have warned him not to implicate them. 68 Upon
further questioning, Gale stated that he was not afraid anymore "because when my family had already
left, I trusted myself to the Lord and I said to myself that I will tell the truth." 69 Thus, the omission
of the names of appellants Maclang and Harisco by Gale in his affidavits does not demolish his
credibility when he subsequently implicated them on the witness stand.
Witnesses are usually reluctant to volunteer information about a criminal case or are unwilling to be
involved in or dragged into criminal investigations due to a variety of valid reasons. 70 Fear of the
criminal is one such reason. 71 On that account, Gales fear was not without basis. In his testimony
Gale revealed that on July 23, 1995, after arriving from Manila, several armed men went to his house
in Old Escalante at around 11:00 p.m., and looked for him, but he hid. 72 Meanwhile, his wife who
likewise came from Manila on the same day, dropped by Benjie Bernajes house, and there, Bernajes
maid handed her a note coming from John Mamarion which contained two bullet slugs and read:"
(T)his two (2) slugs let Amado eat this dispense slug." 73 Gale also received a death threat on May 8,
1996 during the re-investigation of the case at the City Prosecutors office while he was in the comfort
room and someone sidled up to him and handed him a note warning him not to name Maclang or else
he will not return to Bacolod alive. 74
Gales escorts, JO1 Leo Joven and JO1 Jose Gerard Simpas, testified that they did not see Gale leave
Prosecutor Baldagos office at the Iloilo City Hall of Justice during the re-investigation on May 8, 1996,
nor did they notice any unusual behavior on his part at the time he allegedly received the death
threat. 75 This, however, should not be taken as proof that he did not actually receive those death
threats. As the trial court aptly elucidated:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
. . . they certainly based their perception on the outward appearance and actuations of Amado. They

certainly were not in the position to observe the anxiety on Amados mind and fear that digs deep in
Amados heart. The Court observed Amado to be a quiet and pensive person. By keeping to himself
and remaining quiet, Amado acted normally. Without claiming expertise on the field of human
behavior, the Court is nevertheless convinced that Amado is the type who would remain outwardly
quiet although an inner turmoil gnaws inveterately inside his guts.
JO1 Joven declared that Amado did not leave the re-investigation room to go to the comfort room. The
matter of Amado going to the comfort room during the re-investigation is so insignificant and trivial
that could not possibly leave a mark in Mr. Jovens memory. In any event, JO1 Joven left Amado Gale
and the other detainee he was guarding (Charlito Domingo) when he bought coke and siopao on the
ground floor of the building. JO1 Simpas also left the detainees when he purchased coffee for Amado
who requested for the change of the coke to coffee. 76
There being no showing that Gale has any ill motive to testify against appellants, the presumption is
that he was not so moved and his testimony was untainted with bias, and thus entitled to full faith and
credit. 77
In sum, the trial court did not commit any error when it gave probative weight and credence to Gales
testimony.
On the second issue:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The prosecution evidence clearly shows that appellants were conspirators in the perpetration of the
kidnapping for ransom of Roberta Cokin. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an
agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. 78 Appellants Mamarions
and Domingos acts of monitoring the victims activities, coordinating the abduction, handing the
ransom note, collecting the ransom, and detaining Roberta Cokin; and the concerted acts of appellants
Maclang and Harisco in giving instructions and providing funds for their operations, prove that they
acted in concert in committing the crime. Appellants individual participation, viewed in its totality,
point to a joint purpose and criminal design. Thus, they are all equally liable given that in a conspiracy,
the act of one is the act of all. 79
Appellant Mamarion questions the failure of the prosecution to present the money allegedly paid as
ransom. On this score, it must be pointed out that the corpus delicti in the crime of kidnapping for
ransom does not pertain to the ransom money itself. It is the fact of the commission of the crime
which may be proved by the testimony of the witnesses who saw it. To prove the corpus delicti, it is
sufficient for the prosecution to be able to show that (1) a certain fact has been proven, and (2) a
particular person is criminally responsible for the act. 80
From the evidence brought before the trial court, the name and participation of appellant Mamarion in
the planning and execution of the crime of Kidnapping with Ransom consistently and persistently crop
up. However, for reasons known only to himself, he chose to remain silent. In open court, his counsel
manifested that he was waiving his right to present evidence in his defense. Mamarion confirmed said
manifestation, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Your lawyer declared in Court that you are not adducing any evidence by way of your defense. Did
your lawyer give you that information?
JOHN MAMARION
Yes, Your Honor.
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q Do you confirm that information of your lawyer?

A Yes, your Honor.


Q Did your lawyer explain to you the consequences of your not presenting evidence?
A Yes, Sir.
Q Now, the Court will explain to you that if you do not present any evidence for your own behalf the
case will be decided solely on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution against you. Do
you understand that?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Do you still insist that you will not present any evidence?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q And you confirm to the Court that you were not enticed or persuaded by your lawyer, but this is
your own voluntary decision that you will not be presenting evidence? Of course, upon conferring with
your lawyer?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q I think you are aware that this is a heinous crime that you are charged with in this court?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q Are you aware of the penalty that may be imposed if you are found guilty of the offense?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Q What do you know?
A Death penalty.
Q And inspite of that, are you still insisting that you will not testify here, or you will not present any
other witness to testify on your behalf?
A Yes, Your Honor. 81
His silence works against him as it goes against the principle that the first impulse of an innocent man
when accused of wrongdoing is to express his innocence at the first opportune time. 82
Appellant Domingos defense is alibi. He claims that he was on duty from June 15 to July 25, 1995 as
Apprentice Specialist at the 2nd Air Division of the Philippine Air Force based in Mactan although he
went on leave of absence from June 23 to June 26, 1995. The trial court refused to give any weight to
the Morning Reports presented by Domingo showing that he was on duty on the dates Gale stated as
these documents do not appear to be tamper-proof, 83 and that they do not accurately reflect
absences of Air Force personnel out on a pass. 84 Aside from this, prosecution witness Brgy. Capt.
Marlon Villa testified that he saw Domingo whom he knows as "Jack", together with Roger Biona at the
Odiongan barrio fiesta on June 29, 1995, 85 and again, on the first week of July 1995 also in Brgy.
Odiongan although they didnt talk to each other, 86 while Gale positively identified Domingo as the
alias "Jack" who was part of their group. 87 Given these testimonies, the trial court was correct in
disregarding Domingos alibi as jurisprudence gives greater weight to the positive narration of
prosecution witnesses than to the negative testimonies of the defense. 88
The defense of appellant Harisco is denial and alibi. The Court will first deal on her alibi. Her defense
of denial will be taken up together with that of appellant Maclang.

It is axiomatic that alibi is inherently weak and unavailing, 89 and should be established with clear and
convincing evidence in order to be acceptable. 90 The burden is upon the accused to present credible
and tangible proof of physical impossibility to be at the scene of the crime; otherwise, an alibi may not
prevail over the positive testimony and clear identification of the accused by prosecution witnesses.
91
Harisco claims that at 5:15 in the morning of July 10, 1995, she was already in the airport refuting
Gales testimony that they had a breakfast meeting on said date at 5:30 in the morning.
The trial court was not persuaded with her alibi. In disregarding Hariscos alibi, the trial court found
that her PAL plane ticket shows that the flight for Cebu on July 10, 1995 was scheduled to leave at
8:40 in the morning, and Harisco and her companion can be at the airport minutes before the flight
such that her presence during the breakfast meeting at 5:30 in the morning cannot be foreclosed.
Harisco, however, points out that the trial court was mistaken when it stated that the flight was at
8:40 in the morning, because the time reflected on the ticket refers to her connecting flight from Cebu
to Zamboanga on the same date, not from Bacolod City to Cebu.chanrob1es virtua1 law library
On this score, the best evidence that would prove Hariscos flight details on July 10, 1995 would be
the plane ticket itself. 92 A review of Hariscos plane ticket indeed discloses that the 8:40 flight
indicated therein pertains to the connecting flight from Cebu to Zamboanga. 93 However, there is
nothing on record that will buttress Hariscos denial that she was present at the breakfast meeting as
she had an early morning flight for Cebu. It must be pointed out that it devolves upon Harisco to
prove the truth of her allegations, or denials, for that matter. Her plane ticket does not state the
specific time of her flight from Bacolod to Cebu as said flight was booked with an open date. 94
Hariscos witness, May Luzuriaga, testified that the flight from Bacolod to Cebu was at 6:10 in the
morning. 95 But further review of the evidence on record shows that the flight was in fact at 6:50 in
the morning. Particularly, in the passenger manifest brought and presented by Bacolod Branch PAL
Manager Job Lamela, it was specifically written that the time of Flight No. 371 on July 10, 1995 was at
0650H, or in laymans term, 6:50 in the morning, 96 thus debunking Hariscos claim. Absent proof
therefore, Hariscos claim is reduced to an unsupported allegation that bears little persuasive effect,
definitely insufficient to prevail over Gales positive identification. 97
And even assuming that Hariscos flight was at 6:10 in the morning, it does not follow that it was
physically impossible for her to negotiate the distance between her house and the airport. From 5:30
in the morning up to boarding time, Harisco had ample time to be at the meeting and subsequently
board the plane bound for Cebu.
The trial court took judicial notice that Harisco can be at the airport even minutes before the flight
with her ticket and baggage already checked-in earlier in her behalf. 98
Physical impossibility takes into consideration not only the geographical distance between the scene of
the crime, in the present case, the scene of the planning of the crime and the place where appellant
maintains she was at, but more importantly, the accessibility between these two points how this
distance translates to number of hours of travel. 99 Geographical distances may be taken judicial
notice of, but this alone will not suffice for purposes of proving an alibi. 100
The burden is on Harisco to demonstrate that it was physically impossible for her to have been in her
duplex in Capitol Heights where Gale testified that she had breakfast meeting with and gave
instructions to members of the group in carrying out the kidnapping with ransom of Roberta Cokin.
101 Harisco, failed to discharge such burden. The Court does not find any evidence that shows that
the trial court erred in taking judicial notice of the fact that appellant Harisco can be at the airport in a
few minutes time thus making it possible for her to be in the breakfast meeting before going to the
airport for the 6:10 a.m. flight, if indeed the flight of appellant Harisco from Bacolod City to Cebu was
actually 6:10 in the morning of July 10, 1995.
In the light of Gales positive testimony that Harisco participated in the planning of the kidnapping and
was present at the breakfast meeting on July 10, 1995, her defense of alibi must fail, especially when
there is no showing that Gale had any improper motive to testify falsely against her 102 or that it was

physically impossible for her to be at the duplex during the meeting.


Appellant Maclang denies any involvement, claiming that his indictment was politically motivated and
that at the time the alleged conspiracy was brewing, he was already assigned in the Regional Special
Office in Camp Delgado, Iloilo City, 103 and later at the Iloilo Police Provincial Command in Sta.
Barbara, Iloilo. 104 Maclangs denials are futile. As a defense, denials are insipid and weak, being easy
to fabricate and difficult to disprove. 105 Mere denial of involvement in a crime cannot take
precedence over positive testimony. 106 Also, as in the case of Harisco and Domingo, Maclang failed
to prove the impossibility of his presence when the crime was being planned or that Gale was illmotivated in identifying him as one of those who spearheaded the crime.
The participation of both appellants Harisco and Maclang is spelled-out very clearly by the trial court,
based on the evidence adduced before it, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
. . . The facts and circumstances which indubitably show the participation of Major Maclang and Juliet
Harisco in the conspiracy may be succinctly summed up, thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. Major Maclang is the benefactor of the accused John Mamarion whom he took in as an asset in the
Task Force Iron Eagle of which he was the Operations Officer. John Mamarion also worked for Juliet
Harisco in the latters barter trade business. Both Maclang and Harisco exercised moral ascendancy
and influence over Mamarion;
2. Maj. Maclang is a friend of the accused Ronaldo Porquez. Porquez participation in the conspiracy as
instigator was duly established. If the kidnapping is to be segmented, Major Maclang and Juliet
Harisco handles the Bacolod City segment while Porquez is in-charge of the Iloilo side. Porquez
expressly made known to Mamarion and the kidnap group that in Bacolod City, Maj. Maclang and Juliet
Harisco will answer for their expenses;
3. Maclang and Harisco have an illicit affair and both stay at the duplex house at Homesite. John
Mamarion and the kidnap group stay at the duplex house in the course of the preparations for the
kidnapping;
4. The fact that the kidnap group did not return to the duplex house after snatching Roberta reinforces
the evidence of the duos participation. This is too obvious to be further explained;
5. Maclang and Harisco actually delivered moneys to John Mamarion which were spent during the
preparations for the kidnapping;
6. It was Maj. Maclang who ordered the kidnapping to be held on July 15, 1995 at the Tangub cockpit.
Juliet Harisco pointed to John Mamarion reiterating his assigned role as the one who will actually
snatch Roberta Cokin. This incident took place during the breakfast meeting at the duplex house in the
morning of July 10, 1995. It was during that time when Major Maclang gave out a warning that
whatever happens, his name should not be mentioned in connection with the kidnapping;
7. After the filing of the charges against them, both Maclang and Harisco took flight and evaded
arrest. They were arrested in the same house at Taytay, Rizal on October 25, 1997. As testified by Lt.
Col. Rolando Lopez, both Maclang and Harisco occupy adjacent rooms at the upper portion of the
building.
The evidence clearly show that both Maj. Maclang and Juliet Harisco were aware of the filing of the
present case against them and they both evaded arrest. Maclangs feeble explanation for his flight was
that he was trying to recover the folder in the possession of Roger Biona as the documents therein
contained would unravel the mystery of the Cokin kidnapping. This claim is too shallow and too
nebulous as to be given any serious consideration. Hariscos explanation is that she could not accept
being charged for a crime she did not commit. This explanation wilts and fades in illuminating
brightness of clear and positive evidence pointing to her participation in the kidnap-slay as a principal
by inducement. 107

Both appellants Maclang and Harisco argue that: (1) it is inconceivable that they should be involved in
a crime involving such a measly mount considering that Harisco is engaged in a successful business
and owns several properties, 108 and that Maclang is a be-medalled military officer; 109 (2) Harisco
has no motive for committing the crime; 110 (3) the bungled crime cannot be the handiwork of an
experienced military man like Maclang; 111 (4) it is illogical that Maclang will allow Harisco to give
instructions to the group when he is supposedly to be the one to do it. 112
These arguments, which are vain attempts on appellants part to discredit Gale, are plain surmises and
conjectures that pale in the light of Gales positive identification and unwavering testimony. That
Harisco is well-off is irrelevant. As the Court has declared in People v. Deang possession of wealth
does not make one a saint and poverty alone does not make one a criminal. 113 Thus, lack of motive
on the part of Harisco is a moot point in the face of the positive identification and testimony of Gale on
Hariscos participation. Proof of ill motive to commit the crime then becomes irrelevant. 114 Likewise,
Maclangs so-called achievements do not necessarily connote that he is innocent of the crime charged
or that he is incapable of committing it. An accused is not entitled to an acquittal simply because of his
previous, or even present, good moral character and exemplary conduct. 115
Under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 8 of R.A. No. 7659 kidnapping for
ransom is penalized as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another,
or in any manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua to
death:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. If the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than five days.
2. If it shall have been committed simulating public authority.
3. If any serious physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained; or
if threats to kill him shall have been made.
4. If the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, female or a public officer.
The penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purpose of
extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances abovementioned were present in the commission of the offense.
When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subjected to
torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed. (Emphasis supplied)
The prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt that appellants conspired to commit, and in
fact, committed the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom, as charged in the Information. In addition, the
prosecution adduced proof beyond reasonable doubt that as a consequence of the detention of the
victim, she sustained physical injuries which resulted in her death. Applying Article 4, paragraph 1 of
the Revised Penal Code, the appellants are criminally liable for the death of the victim. There being no
evidence that any modifying circumstances attended the killing of the victim, the appellants are guilty
only of the special complex crime of kidnapping for ransom with homicide. 116
Kidnapping for ransom is punishable by death. Under the last paragraph of Article 267 of the Revised
Penal Code, if the victim of the kidnapping dies as a result of her detention, the penalty is also death.
However, since the appellants committed only one felony namely, the special complex crime of
kidnapping for ransom with homicide, the appellant should be sentenced to only one death penalty.
117
Three Justices of the Court maintain their position that R.A. No. 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it
prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is
constitutional and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.

As regards the civil liability of appellants resulting from the death of Roberta Cokin, Article 110 of the
Revised Penal Code is explicit:" (N)otwithstanding the provisions of the next preceding article, the
principals, accomplices, and accessories, each within their respective class, shall be liable severally (in
solidum) among themselves for their quotas, and subsidiarily liable for those of the other persons
liable." Hence, the trial court did not err in declaring that appellants liability for the civil indemnity, as
principals, is solidary 118 or joint and several.
The trial court did not err in awarding P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for the death of Roberta Cokin.
In addition, the trial court is correct in not awarding actual damages to the heirs of Roberta Cokin.
While Teresita Cokin testified that she incurred and defrayed the expenses of transferring the remains
of the victim from the funeral parlor in Anilao to Somo Funeral Home in Iloilo, no receipt or any
document was presented in support thereof.
However, the Court has ruled in recent cases that when no sufficient proof of actual damages is
offered, the heirs of the victim may be awarded temperate damages in the amount of P25,000.00.
119
The trial court is likewise correct in not awarding moral damages. When Teresita Cokin testified that
she emotionally suffered as a result of the death of Roberta Cokin, 120 the defense timely objected to
its introduction 121 on the ground that the prosecution inadvertently failed to offer Teresitas
testimony for the purpose of proving moral damages, 122 in which case, the trial court did not err in
disallowing said evidence.
Hence, actual and moral damages may not be awarded for lack of legal basis.
In view of the presence of two circumstances, namely, the ransom demand and the death of the
victim, exemplary damages in the amount of P100,000.00 should be awarded to the heirs of Roberta
Cokin, conformably with the ruling of this Court in People v. Deang, 123 to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw
library
The law also allows exemplary damages in criminal cases as part of the civil liability of the malefactors
when the crime is attended by one or more aggravating circumstances. As discussed above, this
requisite had already been met. Exemplary damages are, however, imposed "not to enrich one party
or impoverish another but to serve as a deterrent against or as a negative incentive to curb socially
deleterious actions." In the case at bar, exemplary damages in the amount of P100,000.00 are
awarded to the private complainants, by way of example or correction, in addition to the damages
herein awarded.
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City (Branch 50)
in Criminal Case No. 96-17590, convicting appellants John Mamarion y Hisugan, Charlito Domingo y
Gorospe, Rolando Maclang y Ventura and Juliet Harisco y Carrera of the crime of Kidnapping for
Ransom, sentencing them to suffer the penalty of DEATH and ordering them to pay jointly and
severally, to the heirs of Roberta Cokin the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil
indemnity with MODIFICATION that they are further ordered to pay an additional amounts of Twenty
Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) as temperate damages and One Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P100,000.00) as exemplary damages.
Upon finality of this decision, pursuant to Section 25 of R.A. No. 7659, amending Article 83 of the
Revised Penal Code, let the records of this case be immediately forwarded to the Office of the
President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, SandovalGutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna and Tinga, JJ.,
concur.
G.R. Nos. 152864-65
September 27, 2006

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
SPO1 MARIO MARCIAL, SPO1 MONICO BOLOTANO, SPO1 ANASTACIO MAGLINTE, SPO1 ALFREDO NUEZ,
SPO1 RUDY BUNALOS, and PO3 TOMAS DUHAYLUNSOD, respondents.
DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court purportedly raising a question of law and assailing the
orders dated February 6, 20021 and March 7, 20022 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 14, of Oroquieta City (the
RTC) in Criminal Case Nos. 798-14-235 and 800-14-237.
The facts appear as follows:
Two informations, one for homicide and one for frustrated homicide, were filed with the RTC against respondents
SPO1 Mario Marcial, SPO1 Monico Bolotano, SPO1 Anastacio Maglinte, SPO1 Alfredo Nuez, SPO1 Rudy Bunalos
and PO3 Tomas Duhaylunsod, all members of the Philippine National Police, in connection with a shooting incident
that occurred on December 18, 1999. As a result of the incident, one Junnyver Dagle died while one Wendell Sales
was seriously injured.
The information for homicide against the respondents reads as follows:
That on 18 December 1999, in Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another,
committing the offense in relation to their office and in grave abuse thereof with intent to kill, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot JUNNYVER DAGLE with their firearms, thereby inflicting
upon the latter a fatal injury to his head, which caused his instantaneous death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Oroquieta City, Philippines, May 23, 2001.3
On the other hand, the information for frustrated homicide reads as follows:
That on or about the 18th December 1999, in the municipality of Lopez Jaena, province of Misamis
Occidental, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping once another, committing the offense in relation to their office and in
grave abuse thereof, with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot
WENDELL SALES with their firearms, thereby inflicting upon the latter an injury which ordinarily would cause
the death of said WENDELL SALES, thus performing all the acts of execution which would have produced
the crime of homicide as a consequence, but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes
independent of the will of the said accused, that is, by the timely and able medical assistance rendered to
the said WENDELL SALES which prevented his death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Oroquieta City, Philippines, May 23, 2001.4
On arraignment, respondents pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against them. Pre-trial was thereafter held and
terminated, resulting in the issuance by the RTC of a pre-trial order5 which, among others, approved the partial
stipulation of facts, issues and witnesses6 dated December 20, 2001 entered into by the parties.
The parties stipulated as to the following facts:7

(1) The identity of all respondents and their affiliation with the PNP-Lopez Jaena Police Station;
(2) In the evening of December 18, 1999, all respondents were members of the PNP Team that responded
to an alleged or reported call for police assistance at, and received by, the Lopez Jaena Police Station,
coming from an alleged caller;
(3) The PNP team composed of all respondents proceeded to the direction of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental;
(4) After the Solsolon Bridge located in Barangay Sibula, Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental, all respondents
saw two (2) persons riding astride a motorcycle going towards the direction of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental,
who, after the incident, were identified to be the late Junnyver Dagle and Wendell Sales;
(5) While Junnyver Dagle and Wendell Sales were riding on a motorcycle with the latter driving, there were
shots fired, coming from the direction of respondents;
(6) As a result of the shooting, Junnyver Dagle and Wendell Sales were hit and injured, the nature of their
injuries being described in their respective Medico-legal Certificates dated December 27, 1999 issued by Dr.
Olyzar H. Recamadas, the attending physician, and attested to by Provincial Health Officer II Jose M.
Salomon, Sr. of the Misamis Occidental Provincial Hospital, Oroquieta City as follows:
a. Junnyver Dagle:
"DOA"
Gunshoot wound left temporal area
Avulsion left leg
b. Wendell Sales:
"Avulsion left leg distal 3rd secondary to alleged gunshot wound"
(7) The Lopez Jaena Police Station, through Police Inspector Mario R. Rubio, issued a Certification dated
December 23, 1999 relative to the entries found on its Police Blotter on December 23, 1999. This
certification was admitted as to its existence only by the prosecution;
(8) The fact of death of Junnyver Dagle is admitted as well as the fact that Wendell Sales sustained bodily
injury;
(9) For the death of Junnyver Dagle, his heirs are entitled to a civil indemnity in the sum of P50,000;
(10) In relation to the December 18, 1999 incident subject of the present criminal cases, there was a criminal
case for robbery filed against Wendell Sales by the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Misamis Occidental
before RTC, Branch 14, of Oroquieta City entitled "People v. Wendell Sales" docketed as Criminal Case No.
729-14-167. A judgment was subsequently rendered in the latter case convicting Wendell Sales of the crime
charged but this judgment was appealed to the Court of Appeals where it remains pending to date.
The parties likewise agreed on the following issues:8
(1) Whether there was a hot pursuit conducted by respondents on the motorcycle-riding tandem of Junnyver
Dagle and Wendell Sales, with respondents riding on board their police service vehicle in the vicinity of
Barangay Sibula, Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental;
(2) Whether there were warning shots made by respondents, directed in the air, to cause the motorcycle
riders to stop;
(3) Whether Junnyver Dagle or Wendell Sales tried to pull out a short firearm and (whether Dagle or Sales)
fired it at respondents, causing some of them to fire back;

(4) Assuming a firearm was pulled out, whether it was Junnyver Dagle who pulled out such gun and aimed
and fired it at the direction of respondents;
(5) Whether there was found near the person of the fallen Junnyver Dagle a .45 caliber pistol without a serial
number;
(6) Whether the parents of the late Junnyver Dagle incurred burial and transportation expenses by reason of
the latter's untimely demise;
(7) Whether Wendell Sales incurred medical expenses by reason of his hospitalization for the injuries he
sustained; and,
(8) Whether the parents of the late Junnyver Dagle and private complainant Wendell Sales are entitled to
moral damages.
During the hearing held on February 6, 2002, petitioner made an oral motion to reverse the order of the trial upon the
ground that respondents admitted committing the acts for which they were charged in the two informations but
interposed lawful justifying circumstances. The motion was denied by the RTC for lack of merit in the assailed order
dated February 6, 2002. Its motion for reconsideration having been similarly denied, petitioner filed the present
petition.
The issues are:
(a) Whether an order denying a party's motion to modify or reverse the order of trial in a criminal case is
appealable; and,
(b) Assuming that the order is appealable, whether it is mandatory for a trial court to modify or reverse the
order of trial when an accused admits the offense but interposes a lawful defense.
Petitioner argues as follows:
Firstly, since respondents expressly admitted having committed the acts charged but are interposing an affirmative
defense, a modification or reversal of the order of trial is warranted under Section 3 (e),9 Rule 119 of the Rules of
Court which provides as follows:
(e) When the accused admits the act or omission charged in the complaint or information but interposes a
lawful defense, the order of trial may be modified.
Secondly, an order reversing or modifying the order of trial would also be consistent with the second paragraph of
Section 7 of Republic Act No. 8493 (Speedy Trial Act) and its implementing Circular No. 38-98, specifically the
second paragraph of Section 3 of the Circular, thus:
Republic Act No. 8493, Section 7:
xxx
If the accused pleads not guilty to the crime charged, he/she shall state whether he/she interposes
a negative or affirmative defense. A negative defense shall require the prosecution to prove the
guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt while an affirmative defense may modify the order of
trial and require the accused to prove such defense by clear and convincing evidence.
Circular No. 38-98, Section 3:

xxx
If the accused has pleaded not guilty to the crime charged, he may state whether he interposes a
negative or affirmative defense. A negative defense shall require the prosecution to prove the guilt
of the accused beyong reasonable doubt, while an affirmative defense may modify the order of trial
and require the accused to prove such defense by clear and convincing evidence.
Thirdly, the reversal or modification of the order of trial in the present case would promote the intent and objectives of
the Speedy Trial Act, preserve the rights of the parties, and prevent a confusing and disorderly trial.
The assailed orders of the RTC denied the request of the prosecution for a reverse order of trial basically on the
grounds that:
1. There is no clear admission of guilt on the part of the accused, herein respondents, under the stipulation
of facts entered into;
2. A reverse order of trial in these cases would only serve to delay rather than speed up the proceedings;
and,
3. The course of the trial is better governed by the usual order under Section 11, Rule 119, of the Revised
Rules of Court and the sequence set forth in the pre-trial order, agreed upon by the parties, which did not
include an agreement to a reverse the order of trial.
After considering the arguments of both parties herein, the Court finds that the RTC did not commit any reversible
error in denying the request for a reverse order of trial, a matter which under the rules is addressed to the sound
discretion of the trial court. In fact, the rule relied upon by petitioner clearly reflects this discretionary nature of the
procedure, thus:
Rules of Court, Rule 119, Section 3(e):
xxx
(e) When the accused admits the act or omission charged in the complaint or information but interposes a
lawful defense, the order of trial may be modified.10 (Emphasis supplied.)
Republic Act No. 8493, Section 7, likewise states:
xxx
If the accused pleads not guilty to the crime charged, he/she shall state whether he/she interposes a
negative or affirmative defense. A negative defense shall require the prosecution to prove the guilt of the
accused beyond reasonable doubt while an affirmative defense may modify the order of trial and require
the accused to prove such defense by clear and convincing evidence. (Emphasis supplied.)
So also Circular No. 38-98, Section 3, reads as follows:
xxx
If the accused has pleaded not guilty to the crime charged, he may state whether he interposes a negative
or affirmative defense. A negative defense shall require the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused
beyong reasonable doubt, while an affirmative defense may modify the order of trial and require the
accused to prove such defense by clear and convincing evidence. (Emphasis supplied.)

Accordingly, the RTC correctly exercised its discretion in denying petitioner's request for a reverse order of trial.
In any event, a denial of a motion to reverse the Order of Trial is interlocutory in nature and, hence, not appealable.
As it turned out, petitioner's appeal has in fact caused more, a lot more, delay than would have been caused by
proceeding with the trial forthwith as directed by the trial court. No further delay should be countenanced in these
cases.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. RTJ-04-1888

February 11, 2005

EDGARDO O. MAQUIRAN, complainant,


vs.
JUDGE JESUS L. GRAGEDA, Respondent.
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before us is an administrative complaint1 filed by Edgardo O. Maquiran against Judge Jesus L. Grageda of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 4, Panabo City, Davao del Norte, for grave abuse of discretion, direct bribery, violations
of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and rendering manifestly unjust judgment
under Article 206 of the Revised Penal Code committed in relation to Civil Case No. 95-45.2
Complainant is the Chairman of the Banned Chemical Research and Information Center, Inc., association of Filipino
claimants banana plantation workers who were exposed to a certain chemical "dibromochloropropane" used in the
plantation which caused ill-effects on their reproductive organs. Filipino victims together with other victims from twelve
countries filed civil cases for mass torts and damages against the U.S. based multinational corporations with the U.S.
courts which dismissed the cases on ground of forum non conveniens; and required the claimants to file actions in
their home countries. Hence, the more than 7,000 Filipino claimants filed four civil cases in four different venues
against the U.S. corporations, namely: Shell Oil Co., Dow Chemical Company and Occidental Chemical Corporation,
Standard Fruit Company, DOLE Fresh Fruit Company, Chiquita Brands and Del Monte Fresh Produce. One of these
civil cases was raffled to respondent, docketed as Civil Case No. 95-45 in 1995. Sometime in July 1997, the cases
were globally settled in the U.S. by virtue of a document known as the Compromise Settlement, Indemnity and Hold
Harmless Agreements, referred to as the "Settlement." Plaintiffs and defendants in this subject case moved for the
approval of the settlement.
On December 20, 2002, respondent issued an Omnibus Order approving the Settlement by way of a judgment on
compromise.3
Plaintiffs moved for the execution of the Omnibus Order which was opposed by the defendant corporations on the
ground that there is nothing more to execute since the compromise agreements have long been satisfied.
Respondent granted the issuance of a writ of execution on April 15, 2003.4 Accordingly, the writ of execution was
issued on April 23, 2003, to wit:
...
NOW THEREFORE, you are hereby commanded to cause the execution of the Omnibus Order of this court dated
December 20, 2002 specifically to collect or demand from each of the herein defendants the following amounts to wit:
1. Defendants Dow Chemical Company ("Dow") and Occidental Chemical Corporation ("Occidental") the amount of:

a. $22 million or such amount equivalent to the plaintiffs claim in this case in accordance with their Compromise
Settlement, Indemnity, and Hold Harmless Agreement (Annex "A"); and
b. The amount of $20 million or such amount equivalent to the plaintiffs claim in this case in accordance with their
Compromise Settlement, Indemnity, and Hold Harmless Agreement (Annex "B")
2. Defendants Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A. and Del Monte Fresh Produce Company (formerly Del Monte Tropical
Fruit, Co.) (collectively, the "Del Monte defendants") the amount of One Thousand Eight and No/100 Dollars
($1,008.00) for each plaintiff in accordance with their Release in Full Agreement;
3. Defendants Chiquita Brands, Inc. and Chiquita Brands, International, Inc. (collectively the "Chiquita Defendants")
the amount of Two Thousand One Hundred Fifty-Seven and No/100 Dollars ($2,157.00) for each plaintiff in
accordance with their Release in Full Agreement.
You are likewise directed to make a return of the proceedings taken thereon within sixty (60) days from receipt
hereof.5
The Sheriff returned the writ of execution unsatisfied. Defendant corporations filed their separate motions for
reconsideration of the issuance of the writ of execution and for the quashal thereof, insisting that there is nothing left
to execute since plaintiffs claims had already been paid in accordance with the compromise agreements. They
prayed for the reception of evidence to prove their defense; that respondent himself oversee and monitor the
photocopying, certification and authentication of the individual release and other related settlement documents which
are in the safekeeping of the law firm in Houston, Texas, U.S.A. They likewise manifested that they are willing to
defray the expenses of the proceedings in the U.S. Plaintiffs counsel opposed such motions and argued that it is too
late for the presentation of evidence and objected to the presentation of evidentiary documents in the U.S.
On June 30, 2003, respondent issued an Order6 granting defendants separate motions for reception of evidence in
the U.S., at the expense of defendant corporations; and stating that further implementation of the writ of execution
which was returned unsatisfied is held in abeyance or suspended until the proceedings in the U.S. shall have been
terminated and/or completed.
Respondent wrote the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) a letter dated July 3, 2003, requesting permission to
be on "court duty" pursuant to his Omnibus Order dated June 30, 2003 and/or for leave of absence after the
completion of such court duty to visit his daughter in New York, U.S.A. to last not later than August 26, 2003.7
On July 18, 2003, respondent issued an Order to supplement/ implement his Order dated June 30, 2003 outlining the
details of the U.S. proceedings, to wit: members of the parties, venue, duration, and the reasonable expenses for
travel, food and accommodations, personnel and equipment which shall be jointly shouldered by the defendants.
While respondents request for an authority to be on court duty was pending action, he wrote another letter dated
August 11, 2003, asking permission to travel in the U.S. for the purpose of visiting his daughter, which the Court
granted. The travel authority dated August 27, 2003 authorized respondent to travel to the U.S. from August 26 to
September 15, 2003 to visit his daughter which shall be at the expense of respondent and chargeable against his
forfeitable and cumulative leave credits.
However, while in the U.S., respondent conducted proceedings in the Philippine Consulate General Office, San
Francisco, California, U.S.A., from August 27 to September 29, 2003, and issued an Order dated September 29,
2003, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court, hereby, RESOLVES:
...

2. To direct once more the Consulate Generals Office, again, through the support and assistance of Consul General
Delia Menez Rosal, Consuls Eduardo Malaya, and Leoncio Cardenas, and all their staff to transmit to Branch 4,
Regional Trial Court, Hall of Justice, Panabo City, Davao del Norte, Philippines, the evidentiary documents consisting
of affidavits of witnesses, separate and distinct Compromise Agreements, Amendment to the Compromise
Agreement, Trust Agreements, Court records pertaining to the probate of the Trust Agreement, the Releases in Full
for the manufacturers Dow, Occidental and Shell, the Releases in Full of Chiquita and the Releases in Full of the Del
Monte defendants, the checks and drafts duly authenticated, including microfilm copies and bank certificates, the
bank documents pertaining to the deposit of the settlement amounts of the respective settling defendants Dow,
Occidental, Shell, Chiquita and Del Monte, the settlement plaintiffs, retainer agreements, executed by the plaintiffs,
and various Court records submitted by Fred Misko, pertaining to the RICO case he filed against Atty.
Macadangdang, et al., the various statutes and applicable American cases testified on by Judge Ruby Kless
Sondock, and the original transcripts prepared and signed by the court reporters from the American Reporting
Services, and all other documents authenticated by the undersigned and/or received by the Court in the proceedings
conducted in this venue.
...
5. To declare the photocopies of all the aforesaid documents that were viewed, examined, and thoroughly scrutinized
by the Court as aforesaid, vis--vis their originals as unquestionably authenticated personally by the undersigned, as
faithful, true and correct copies of their respective originals.
6. And finally, to declare the proceedings in the above-entitled case in this venue terminated and/or the task set out to
be done by the Court in coming to the Consulate Generals Office of San Francisco, California, U.S.A.functus oficio. 8
Complainant filed the instant administrative case against respondent alleging that respondent committed (1) grave
abuse of discretion in issuing the Order dated June 30, 2003, staying the service of the writ of execution and directing
himself and his staff to go to the U.S. for further reception of evidence; (2) direct bribery when he suspended the writ
of execution because defendants offered him free trip to the U.S., with free passport and visa services, free round trip
tickets, free hotel accommodations, food and daily allowances for the duration of his stay therein; (3) violation of B.P.
Blg. 129 on territorial jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court when he conducted court sessions in San Francisco,
California, U.S.A., from August 27 to September 29, 2003 without authorization from the Supreme Court; (4)
violations of Canons of Judicial Ethics (a) for not being studiously careful to avoid even the slightest infraction of the
law, and (b) when he accepted the offer of defendants for a free trip with accommodations to the U.S.; and (5)
violation of Art. 206 of the Revised Penal Code by issuing an unjust Order dated September 29, 2003 ordering the
stay of the execution of the writ in order to gather, receive and appreciate xerox copies of evidence submitted to him
in the course of the illegal court session held in the U.S.
Judge Grageda filed his comment which is summarized by the OCA in its Memorandum,9 as follows:
On the charge of Grave Abuse of Discretion
...
5. It is a brazen and wanton lie for the complainant to claim that the defendants offered him free passport and visa
services since the same were issued in the normal course of procedures in and by the Department of Foreign Affairs
and the US Embassy. His passport was issued on 27 September 1999, three (3) years and eleven (11) months
before he conducted proceedings in California, USA, and his visa was granted on 15 May 2000, three (3) years and
three (3) months before he conducted said proceedings. Hence, complainant not only brazenly lied, but also
committed perjury in stating under oath that the defendants offered him free passport and visa services;
6. He vehemently denies that he made a complete turn-around and ordered a stay of the writ of execution and
directed himself and his staff to have a trip to USA in blatant disregard of the rules of court. The complainant did not
state what particular rule was violated. On the contrary, the Order dated 30 June 2003 was arrived at by virtue of his
authority in the same manner and with the same bases as his other orders and issuances. In fact he cited in his said
order the rule and the law supporting his conclusions;

IV. On the charge of Direct Bribery


1. He denies the charge for being baseless;
2. He did not order the suspension of the service of the writ of execution, which was in fact served and implemented
by the sheriff;
3. In support of complainants claim that the defendants offered him a free trip to USA should he (Judge Grageda)
suspend the service of the writ of execution are the pleadings/motions filed by the parties in the subject case, but
nowhere in said pleadings/motions could they find support to such claim;
4. As a judge, it is his bounden duty to act on all motions. His ruling on the motions filed before him or his orders and
issuances are correctible by ordinary appeal or certiorari, which complainant dismally failed;
5. His trip to San Francisco was prayed for by the defendants and agreed by the plaintiffs. The reason for said trip is
to ferret out the truth regarding the diametrically conflicting claims of the plaintiffs and the defendants as to payment
of defendants obligations to plaintiffs pursuant to the compromise settlement approved by the court. It is his lawful
discretion and duty under the law to hold in abeyance the further implementation of the writ of execution to avoid a
miscarriage of justice;
V. On the charge of Violation of BP 129 1. The rationale for the conduct of proceedings in the Philippines Consulate Generals Office, San Francisco,
California, U.S.A. was explained in full in his Order dated 30 June 2003;
2. BP 129 is silent on his conduct of proceedings in the USA, but which conduct of proceedings finds support in the
Rules of Court, International Law, and implied in the inherent powers of the court to exercise its discretion in adopting
necessary means and procedure to properly resolve issues of facts and law brought up before it in a case subjudice
and in so doing, administers justice properly.
VI. On the charge of Violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics 1. The charge is self-serving. As explained above, he conducted the subject proceedings abroad as part of his faithful
and lawful performance of his duties and functions as judge to properly resolve the issues brought before his court in
the interest of the proper administration of justice;
2. His actions on the motions filed by the parties are correctible only by ordinary appeal or certiorari, which the
complainant failed to do. His conduct stands in the absence of modification, correction or reversal by the appellate
courts;
3. To suit their ends, complainant grossly twisted and misinterpreted his Order dated 18 July 2003, which he is
estopped to question because it was issued after due deliberation in court and with the conformity of the parties;
VII. On the charge of Violation of Art. 206 of the Revised Penal Code 1. The charge is self-serving, baseless and erroneous or twisted misinterpretation of his orders primarily because he
did not decide Civil Case No. 95-45 on 15 April 2003 and neither did he issue an order to stay the execution of the
writ of execution on 29 September 2003;
2. Contrary to complainants claim, original documents and not mere xerox copies, were the ones presented before
him during the proceedings held in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
In addition, respondent alleges that complainant is an ex-felon and an ex-convict; that complainant is the chairman of
an association engaged in nothing more than a pseudo defense of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 95-45 promising to

protect their interests but demanding a large percentage of their recoverable award from court litigation knowing that
such recovery is no longer possible; that complainant has hardly come to court with clean hands.
In its Report, the OCA submitted its findings and recommendation, as follows:
After a careful perusal and evaluation of the parties respective positions and arguments, together with letter-request
of Judge Grageda for authority to conduct proceedings abroad, as well as all the pleadings and documents on record,
this Office finds that there are reasonable grounds to hold the respondent administratively liable.
This Office received Judge Gragedas letter dated July 3, 2003, requesting permission to be "on court duty" in
connection with an Omnibus Order dated 30 June 2003, which he issued in the subject case. Full text of the said
letter is quoted as follows:
Sir,
May I ask your permission to be on court duty pursuant to Omnibus Order in Civil Case No. 95-45, dated 30th June
2003, copy whereof I had caused you to be furnished but for your immediate reference I have hereto appended
another copy and/or for leave of absence on my forfeitable leave after the completion of the court duties in
accordance with the above-mentioned order to visit relatives, particularly, a daughter in New York I have not seen for
the last three (3) years to last not later than August 26, 2003.
Trusting in your esteemed condescension on the matter with my unstinting loyalty and devotion to the service, I am.
Very truly yours,
Jesus L. Grageda (SGD.)
JUDGE
A memorandum dated July 18, 2003 was prepared and submitted by DCA Christopher O. Lock to the Office of Justice
Velasco, recommending that:
1. The request of Judge Jesus L. Grageda, RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City, to be "on court duty" while overseeing and
monitoring the photocopying, certification, and authentication of the original release and related documents, etc., and
to conduct the cross-examination of defendants witnesses in Houston Texas, U.S.A. relative to the Omnibus Order
dated 30 June 2003 in Civil Case No. 95-45, be DENIED;
2. Judge Jesus L. Grageda, RTC, Branch 4, Panabo City, be AUTHORIZED to travel abroad on leave of absence to
visit his daughter in New York, U.S.A. from August 11-25, 2003 at no government expense.
...
On a follow-up made by Judge Grageda, he was informed that his request will be denied because a Filipino judge
has no legal authority to exercise judicial powers and render judicial services outside the Philippine territory. Thus, he
filed a letter dated August 11, 2003 asking instead permission to travel to the United States only to visit a daughter.
Full text of said letter-request is quoted as follows:
Sir,
May I ask your permission to travel to the U.S. to visit a daughter using my forfeitable leave from August 26-30, 2003
and from Sept. 1 to 15, 2003 and/or vacation leave.
...

Notwithstanding the fact that no authority was given to Judge Grageda to conduct proceedings on the subject cases
in the United States, he still proceeded with the evaluation and reception of evidence pertaining to the said cases.
Worse, the proceedings were held beyond the period granted him as per travel authority issued by the Office of the
Court Administrator. The request for extension of Judge Gragedas leave of absence, filed through his daughter, was
denied for not being seasonably filed.
Judge Grageda primarily cites good faith in justifying his conduct of proceedings in the US. In his almost nine (9)
years in judicial service, Judge Grageda held a good performance record. In this case, he honestly believed that as a
presiding judge over the case, he was mandated by law to resolve the "very difficult issues" in the case before him
using "all auxiliary writs, processes and other means necessary" and if the procedure to be followed is not specified
by law, he may adopt "any suitable process or mode of proceeding" which appears conformable to the spirit of said
law or rules." When Judge Grageda decided to grant defendants motions for the reception of evidence in the US, it
was supposedly in the interest of justice and a relentless pursuit for the truth. To Judge Gragedas credit, it was his
earnest desire to resolve the case which, according to him, involves difficult issues and numerous parties. Such good
faith mitigates his liability but it does not really absolve him.
Likewise, the charge of Judge Grageda against complainant in the instant administrative matter does not operate to
absolve him of administrative liability. Whether or not the allegations against the complainant are true, the fact
remains that Judge Grageda acted without authority from the Court when he conducted proceedings in the Philippine
Consulate Generals Office in San Francisco, U.S.A.
Evidently, for conducting what Judge Grageda himself called as "not-so-usual proceedings," he should be held
administratively liable. His actuations, despite his good and honest intentions, created doubts on his impartiality.
Although the defendants did not provide for his passport and visa for the trip, he nevertheless benefited therefrom as
he was able to travel to the U.S.A. and visit his daughter all expenses paid. This the Honorable Court should not
countenance.
RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully submitted for the consideration and approval of the Honorable Court are to (sic)
recommendations that:
1. The matter be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter;
2. Judge Jesus L. Grageda be suspended for a period of six (6) months for Grave Misconduct in conducting judicial
proceedings at the Consulate Generals Office in San Francisco California USA, without authority from the Honorable
Court.
We agree with the findings and recommendations of the OCA that respondent should be held administratively liable
for conducting the proceedings in the U.S. without the Courts approval.
It clearly appears in the records that respondent was granted authority to travel in the U.S. from August 26 to
September 15, 2003 for the sole purpose of visiting his daughter. While he did ask the permission of this Court to be
on court duty for the photocopying, certification, authentication and submission of all original documents, relative to
defendants claim of payment of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 95-45, there is no showing that the same was granted.
In fact, Deputy Court Administrator (DCA) Christopher Lock had submitted to the Court Administrator a memorandum
dated July 18, 2003 recommending for the denial of such request. Although, such denial had not been submitted to
and passed upon by the Court, respondent wrote another letter requesting permission to travel to the U.S. to visit his
daughter using his forfeitable and/or vacation leave from August 26 to September 15, 2003 which was granted by the
Court. However, as embodied in respondents Order dated September 29, 2003, he conducted the proceedings from
August 27, 2003 up to September 29, 2003 despite the fact that his authority to go to the U.S. was only to visit his
daughter from August 26 to September 15, 2003. From September 16 onwards, he was already absent without leave
as his request for an extension made through his daughter in Manila was denied by the Court because the same was
not seasonably filed.
Respondent claims that his action in conducting the proceedings in the U.S. was motivated by his honest belief to
ferret out the whole truth in very complicated issues. Pertinent portions of the June 30, 2003 Order read:

To reiterate at the core of the pending matter(s) to be resolved is whether or not on the bases of the settlements
entered into by the plaintiffs and defendants Shell Oil, DOW & Occidental, Del Monte and Chiquita the former have
been paid or have received the monetary proceeds or benefits arising from the said settlements which this Court
approved by way of Judgment(s) on Compromise under the milestone omnibus order of December 20, 2002 under
which, the plaintiffs moved for execution resulting in the questioned order of April 15, 2003 and the equally
questioned writ issued on April 23, 2003.
The Court expected that after issuing the questioned order matters would be put to rest between and among the
parties. But it was not meant to be. The expectation has been in vain. For rather than put matters to rest, the
questioned stirred, so to say, a hornets nest. And like aroused killer bees in droves the movant defendant swarmed
upon the courts said order.
But this court is amazed at the vehemence and consistency of the movants arguments before and after the issuance
of the questioned order which came to be because the court honestly believed that the lowly plaintiffs claim that they
have not been paid nor received the monetary benefits of the settlements they entered into with the settling
defendants was meritorious. And after the issuance of the said questioned order and cognizance of a few documents
and reliable testimonies indicating that at least some plaintiffs have already been paid or received monetary benefits
from the settling defendants, the Court is no longer so sure about the absolute veracity of the plaintiffs claim that they
have not been paid or received monetary benefits arising from the settlements with the movant defendants. As a
result of these developments the courts duty is to dig deep and thoroughly into the matter to ferret out the whole truth
which is the sole basis for the validity and integrity of its issuances, the latter, in turn thus becoming potent, because
untainted, instruments in the dispensation of impartial justice to the parties . . .10
In fine, the court agrees with the movant defendants and holds that the examination of documents to determine their
existence, due execution or authenticity is imperative as such examination will supply conclusive answers to the
burning questions on whether or not the plaintiffs have been paid, or in the alternative, the defendants have satisfied
or complied with their obligations under the settlements or compromise agreements, approved by this court, which
they respectively entered into with the plaintiffs.
The approval of the proceedings prayed for by the movant defendants appear [s] to be squarely supported by the
following provision of the Rules of Court thus:
"Means to carry jurisdiction into effect When by law jurisdiction is conferred on a court or a judicial officer, all
auxiliary writs, processes and other means necessary to carry it into effect may be employed by such court or officer;
and if the procedure to be followed in the exercise of such jurisdiction is not specifically pointed out by law or by these
rules, any suitable process or mode of processing may be adopted which appears conformable to the spirit of said
law or rules (Sec. 6, Rule 135, Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, underscoring supplied)."
WHEREFORE, pursuant to Sect. 6, Rule 135, supra, defendants Shell Oils Amended Motion as well as the kindred
motions of defendants Del Monte, Chiquita and Dow & Occidental for reception of evidence and or examination,
photocopying, authentication . . . etc. of documents, being meritorious are, hereby, GRANTED. Said defendants are
ordered to submit to this court for examination. On August 4, 2003 and everyday thereafter until proceedings are
completed, all their documentary evidence, to wit: settlement or release documents with the plaintiffs, trust
agreements with commercial or banking institutions, payment checks to the latter and/or to the individual plaintiffs
with the latters acknowledgment receipts, authority of certain agents/attorneys to represent the plaintiffs and all other
related documents in an appropriate consular office of the Philippines in the United States pursuant to the principle of
extra-territoriality, the expenses, facilities, equipment and support personnel to carry out in full the said court
proceedings to be borne proportionately by the movant defendants in accordance with their
agreement/manifestations, supra, before this court; to expedite the conduct of the said proceedings herein ordered to
be undertaken, the defendants are likewise, pursuant to Sec. 3, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court directed to submit
supporting affidavits of their witnesses attesting to the factual averments in their respective motion for reconsideration
and to furnish plaintiffs with copies thereof within ten (10) days from receipt hereof and said witnesses should be
made available for cross-examination in the proceedings to be conducted, as aforesaid, in the United States; action
on the motions for reconsideration of the order dated 15th April 2003, and on the "Ex-Parte Motion for Amendment of
the Writ of Execution," the further implementation, which to date has been returned by the sheriff, supra, unsatisfied,
of the writ of execution and the quashal or recall thereof are held in abeyance or suspended until the said

proceedings in the United States shall have been terminated and/or completed. Let copies of this order be
immediately served upon the parties for their respective information, guidance and compliance.11
Respondents purpose for his action may be commendable since he wanted to be sure that the contentions of
defendant corporations that plaintiffs had already been paid in accordance with their settlement by the proofs of
plaintiffs execution of release and receipt documents. However, the means in which he set his intention cannot have
the approval of the Court. It must be remembered that no matter how noble respondents intention was, he is not at
liberty to commit acts of judicial indiscretion. The proceedings conducted by respondent abroad are outside the
territorial jurisdiction of the Philippine Courts. He is the Presiding Judge of Branch 4 of the Regional Trial Court for the
Eleventh Judicial Region, the territorial jurisdiction of which is limited only to Panabo, Davao del Norte.12 This Court
had not granted him any authority to conduct the proceedings abroad.
Secondly, respondents reliance on Section 6, Rule 135 of the Rules of Court, i.e., when there is no specific law or
rules to carry out courts jurisdiction, he may adopt suitable process or mode to effect the same, to justify his action is
unacceptable. Notably, respondent, in his reply to DCA Locks memorandum, admitted that he asked permission to
conduct the proceeding abroad to receive evidence, thus he knew that he must first secure the Courts approval. It
bears stressing that cases are decided on the basis of evidence presented before the court, thus it is incumbent upon
the party who is to be benefited by such evidence to produce the same, no matter how voluminous and burdensome,
in accordance with the rules for the courts appreciation and evaluation. It is not respondents duty to secure these
documents for the defendants, as he is the judge in the pending case and not the counsel of the defendants. Judges
in their zeal to search for the truth should not lose the proper judicial perspective, and should see to it that in the
execution of their duties, they do not overstep the limitations of their power as laid by the rules of procedure.13 The
Court finds respondent guilty of gross misconduct in conducting the proceedings in the U.S. without the Courts
authority.
Complainant further claims that respondent abused his discretion in issuing the Order dated June 30, 2003 approving
the reception of defendants evidence in the U.S. Assuming respondent might have acted in abuse of discretion in
issuing the orders complained of, it does not necessarily follow that he acted in bad faith. Abuse of discretion by a trial
court does not necessarily mean ulterior motive, arbitrary conduct or willful disregard of a litigants rights.14 As held in
gr_ Balsamo vs. Suan,15 we held:
. . . [A]s a matter of policy, in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity
are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous. He cannot be subjected to liability civil,
criminal or administrative - for any of his official acts, no matter how erroneous, as long as he acts in good faith. In
such a case, the remedy of the aggrieved party is not to file an administrative complaint against the judge but to
elevate the error to the higher court for review and correction. The Court has to be shown acts or conduct of the judge
clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before the latter can be branded the stigma of being biased and partial.
Thus, not every error or mistake that a judge commits in the performance of his duties renders him liable, unless he is
shown to have acted in bad faith or with deliberate intent to do an injustice. Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt
motives or improper considerations are sufficient defenses in which a judge charged with ignorance of the law can
find refuge.
Complainant likewise charges respondent of bribery when he ordered the suspension of the service of the writ of
execution after he was allegedly offered by the losing party defendants a free trip to the U.S. for the reception of
further evidence despite plaintiffs vehement opposition. We find such claim as mere conjecture. Notably, after the
issuance of the writ of execution on April 23, 2003, the sheriff implemented it the following day by serving notices of
garnishment to the head offices of the various banks operating in the country based in Metro Manila. However, these
banks replied that defendants have no assets with them subject for garnishment, thus the writ of execution was
returned unsatisfied.16 Defendant corporations filed several motions for reconsideration of the order of execution and
to quash the writ of execution. Respondent, after reviewing those motions, admitted that he was no longer sure on
the claims of plaintiffs that they had not been paid arising from the compromise settlement from the defendants
specially since the defendants have shown prima facie bases that they have documentary evidence tending to prove
that they have satisfied their obligations under the compromise agreement. Respondent honestly believed that there
was a need for further reception of defendants documentary evidence proving payment thereof, thus, he granted
defendants motion for reception of evidence where the expenses for such trip will be proportionately shared by the
defendant corporations as manifested. Clearly, respondent ordered the suspension of the further implementation of

the writ of execution only after the same was returned unsatisfied and because he was no longer sure of the validity
and integrity of such issuance; and not because he was offered a free trip to the U.S. It just so happened that the
documentary evidence which would prove payment is in the U.S., hence defendants prayed for the reception of
evidence in the U.S. and offered to defray the expenses. Respondent approved the conduct of the judicial
proceedings abroad which, however, is improper for being outside of his courts territorial jurisdiction and without the
courts approval.
Notably, respondent, in implementing his Order dated June 30, 2003 for the reception of evidence in the U.S., issued
another Order dated July 18, 2003, where he stated among others, the persons who will represent the plaintiffs which
included plaintiffs counsel and herein complainant, whose travel and accommodation expenses for the trip shall also
be jointly shouldered by the defendants. Although plaintiffs counsel did not attend the proceedings, records show that
he received the said order since he even filed a motion to include his wife as a member of the plaintiffs party. Clearly,
respondents action showed that he wanted all the parties to be represented and given the chance to examine the
documents and ferret out the truth.
Complainant charges respondent of violating Canon 22 of Judicial Ethics which provides that the judge should be
studiously careful himself to avoid even the slightest infraction of the law, lest it be demoralizing example to others.
He contends that respondent violated the Canon when he conducted an illegal court session in the U.S. Although
respondent erroneously conducted the proceedings abroad, we find that his action was done in good faith. He was of
the honest belief that it was sanctioned by law.
Complainant further accuses respondent of violating Section 29 of Canons of Judicial Ethics which states that he
should not accept any presents or favors from litigants or from lawyers practicing before him. He claims that
respondent accepted the offer when he issued the Orders dated June 30, 2003 and July 18, 2003 directing himself
and his staff to go to the U.S. for the reception of evidence. Again, the charge is baseless. Records show that
respondent indeed went to the U.S. for the purpose of receiving the evidence of the defendants. In his Compliance to
DCA Locks Memorandum dated October 27, 2003 directing him to explain (1) why he conducted the court
proceedings in the U.S. without authority from the Court and while he was on leave, and (2) pointing out that his
travel authority was from August 26, 2003 to September 15, 2003 thus after September 15, 2003 he was considered
AWOL, respondent submitted the following explanations, thus:
As early as 3 July 2003, I wrote a letter to the Hon. Presbitero J. Velasco, our indefatigable and esteemed Court
Administrator, asking permission to conduct the proceedings. But, unfortunately, in my honest recollection, I did not
receive any information that action, whether favorable or not, was taken on my request. When the period determined
in the said orders came about, things having been set irretrievably in motion with all parties notified and preparations
in the chosen venue done, I did travel to San Francisco, California, U.S.A. and conducted the proceedings in the
Consulate Generals Office of the said place by virtue of my duties and functions as presiding Judge over the said
case. I did so in good faith and in the clear honest belief that as the sole judge over the said case I am, exclusively, in
the first instance, absent any superior courts prohibition, called upon and mandated by law to resolve very difficult
issues, as said above, brought up before me. I also honestly believe that as the sole judge over the said case I was
indubitably vested by law not only with incidental but express powers or authority to successfully perform my job,
however difficult, in the said case. I also honestly believe that I would be held accountable if I did not act either way
while indubitable empowered by law with the exclusive discretion and authority to do so and, finally, I honestly believe
that it is for such mandatory performance of duties and functions that I was duly appointed judge, qualified and
invested by law with the necessary powers and authority to perform judicial duties, which modesty aside, with the
guiding hand of the Almighty I exactly did to the best of my ability and without blemish in the more than eight (8) years
now that I have served the judiciary in the capacity of RTC judge.
With due respect, let me stress that I was thousands of miles away in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. It was thus
nigh impossible for me to personally file or execute a written application for the extension of my leave of absence.
The only way I thought would be feasible under the circumstances to effectively reach the OCA was to ask, by texting
mode over a cellphone, the help of no less than a daughter of mine, namely, Sheila Marie Grageda-Florendo, a Clerk
III in Branch 47 of the RTC in Manila to do the errand for me. At first my said daughter was reluctant to do my bidding
but I told her: "go to the OCA and request an extension of my leave of absence. Identify yourself as my daughter and
because you are my daughter they will believe you.

My said daughter did go to the OCA in accordance with my instructions. But she was informed that my request was
late because a request for an extension of a leave of absence had to be filed ten (10) days before expiration of the
original period of allowed leave of absence of the applicant. In the face of such peremptory information from a person
in the OCA my daughter easily lost heart at the requirement of "ten-days before" and thus, I failed to get an extension
of my leave of absence. But I was in San Francisco not on a vacation, in mid-stream drowned at hard work and
compelled to proceed with the work until terminated as envisioned in the said order, supra, dated 30 June 2003.
Thus, definitely I had attempted to secure an extension from the OCA of my leave of absence but such attempt was,
unfortunately unsuccessful due to an unexpected confluence of events and circumstances occasioned principally by
pressure of work aggravated by distance from the OCA.17
...
With due respect, may I say that the proceedings I presided over as a judge in San Francisco were done purely along
the lines of duty and in furtherance of justice. While admittedly unprecedented, such proceedings, as said above,
were necessary for the resolution of very difficult and intractable issues raised by the parties in the said Civil Case
No. 95-45 pending before my sala.
However, in embarking on the pursuance of such proceedings abroad I realized and regret in full that I may have
incurred shortcomings, such as my unsuccessful attempt to secure an extension of my leave of absence pursuant to
the usual regulation of the OCA. 18
Respondent performed his duties and conducted the proceedings abroad as evidenced by his Order dated
September 29, 2003, to wit:
. . . From August 27, 2003 up to now, September 29, 2003, the court performed exactly the job it set out to do by
virtue of the said orders.19
...
In the course of the proceedings, the defendants called to the witness stand to testify on various pending issues no
less than twelve (12) witnesses, in the following order, namely Michael L. Brem, Fred Misko, Jr., Richard Burt
Ballanfant, D. Ferguson McNeil, Rue Lynn Allen, retired Supreme Court of Texas Judge Ruby Kless Sondock,
Laureen Suba, Beth Defenbaugh, Mickey M.A. Mills, Samuel E. Stubbs, Robert Greig, and Stephen Ostrowski, six (6)
of whom are besides counsel or representatives of the defendant corporations faithfully performing specific tasks for
the respective defendants. They hailed from as far as New York City and Dallas and Houston, Texas. In particular,
said witnesses, under the direction and control of the respective defendants Philippine counsel brought to the Court
tens of boxes of voluminous documents in their original and photocopies, the latter for marking as exhibits and for
viewing, inspection, and authentication by the Court vis--vis their respective originals, which the Court, through the
undersigned, meticulously, in fact, viewed, inspected, noted, authenticated, box after box, volume after volume, page
after page, entry upon entry, signature after signature, particularly and painstakingly leaving nothing to chance, even
a speck, color, condition of the documents, or any discrepancy in spelling of names and initials, with decided,
deliberate and purposeful rigorous scrutiny of the said documents in the faithful performance of the task of properly
authenticating them, the raison detre for the Courts repairing(sic) to this venue in the Consulate Generals Office of
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The Court, after crossing the ocean from the Philippines and coming to the friendly shores of San Francisco, fully
realized the magnitude of the task it was duty-bound to do. In the best interest of truth as the only sound basis for the
proper administration of justice, after it has duly authenticated each and every photocopy of the documents consisting
of Compromise Agreements, Hold Harmless Agreements, and Releases in Full and receipts of the settlement
proceeds by the plaintiffs from the defendant corporations, Shell Oil, Dow and Occidental, Del Monte defendants and
the Chiquita defendants, drafts, checks, and microfiche copies including 23 other releases and drafts for the plaintiffs
whose status as parties in the above-entitled case is not clear now, but ad cautelum, have been provisionally
received and/or admitted by the Court to preclude the need for the Court to repair(sic) back to this venue in case
those individuals are indeed plaintiffs in the above-entitled case.

The Court also, viewed the originals and authenticated the photocopies of the following documents: consisting of
affidavits of witnesses, five (5) separate and distinct Compromise Agreements of Shell, Dow, Occidental, Del Monte
and Chiquita, First Amendment to the Compromise Agreement (Shell, Dow, Occidental), trust Agreements, Court
records pertaining to the probate of the Trust Agreement (Shell, Dow and Occidental), the Releases in Full for the
manufacturers Dow, Occidental and Shell, the Releases in Full of Chiquita and the Releases in Full of the Del Monte
defendants, the checks and drafts, including microfiche copies and bank certificates, the bank documents pertaining
to the deposit of the settlement amounts of the respective settling defendants Dow, Occidental, Shell, Chiquita and
Del Monte, and related documents thereto.
In addition, consularized affidavits attached to faithful copies of statutes and cases were also received and marked as
exhibits to prove the applicable Texas law.
Finally, also received and marked as exhibits were hundreds of settlements statements and payment vouchers
containing photographs of the settling plaintiffs contained in two (2) boxes sent by Fred Misko to Samuel Stubbs and
received by the latter while he was testifying in Court on September 23, 2003. Also in the said boxes were
photocopies of retainer agreements executed by the plaintiffs and according to the testimony of Fred Misko, the
originals thereof are in the possession of Atty. Renato Ma. Callanta. Fred Misko also sent a copy of the Final
Judgment rendered by the Texas Court in the RICO case he filed against Atty. Macadangdang, DCAI, Alberto
Lanohan and Edgardo Maquiran, without prejudice to proper authentication in the future.20
Considering that respondent went to the U.S. for the purpose of conducting the proceedings, his travel was paid for
by the defendant corporations pursuant to his June 30, 2003 Order wherein it was provided that the expenses,
facilities, equipment and support personnel who would carry out in full the court proceedings in the U.S. shall be
borne proportionately by the defendants as manifested by them. Thus, the payment of respondents expenses for the
U.S. trip cannot be considered as acceptance of favors.
Based on the foregoing, it would appear that respondents intention in going to the U.S. was really for the purpose of
conducting the proceedings in the Consulate Office and he merely used the reason of visiting his daughter to be
granted a travel authority. His travel authority to visit his daughter was granted from August 26 to September 15,
2003, and as soon as he was in the U.S., he started conducting the proceedings from August 27 to September 29,
2003.
Finally, complainant also charges respondent of knowingly rendering unjust judgment under Art. 206 of the Revised
Penal Code, which constitutes a serious charge under Section 8, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court,21 for his Orders
dated June 30, 2003 and September 29, 2003. We find the same devoid of merit. As a rule, the acts of a judge which
pertain to his judicial functions are not subject to disciplinary power unless they are committed with fraud, dishonesty,
corruption or bad faith. To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the
facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in his judgment.22 While respondent
issued the Order dated June 30, 2003 for the reception of evidence in the U.S. and the Order dated September 29,
2003, which may not be in accordance with the rules, it cannot be a basis for administrative action under this charge
since there was no showing that he intentionally and willfully rendered it knowing it to be unjust. The failure of
respondent to correctly interpret the law does not render him administratively liable. The ruling in gr_ Basa Air Base
Savings & Loan Association, Inc., vs. Judge Gregorio G. Pimentel, Jr.,23 is instructive:
A charge of knowingly rendering an unjust judgment constitutes a criminal offense. The keyword in said offense is
"knowingly." Thus, the complainant must not only prove beyond reasonable doubt that the judgment is patently
contrary to law or not supported by the evidence but that it was also made with deliberate intent to perpetrate an
injustice. A judges mere error in the interpretation or application of the law per se will not warrant the imposition of an
administrative sanction against him for no one is infallible. Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or
improper consideration are sufficient defenses that will protect a judicial officer from the charge of rendering an unjust
decision.
Moreover, the alleged error committed by respondent in issuing the subject Orders pertains to the exercise of his
adjudicative functions. Such error cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings but should instead be
assailed through judicial remedies.24 As held in gr_ Flores vs. Abesamis:25

As everyone knows, the law provides ample judicial remedies against errors or irregularities being committed by a
Trial Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The ordinary remedies against errors or irregularities which may be
regarded as normal in nature (i.e., error in appreciation or admission of evidence, or in construction or application of
procedural or substantive law or legal principle) include a motion for reconsideration (or after rendition of judgment or
final order, a motion for new trial), and appeal. The extraordinary remedies against error or irregularities which may
be deemed extraordinary in character (i.e., whimsical, capricious, despotic exercise of power or neglect of duty, etc.)
are, inter alia, the special civil action of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus, or a motion for inhibition, a petition for
change of venue, as the case may be.
Now, the established doctrine and policy is that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against Judges are not
complementary or suppletory of, nor a substitute for, these judicial remedies, whether ordinary or extraordinary.
Resort to and exhaustion of these judicial remedies, as well as the entry of judgment in the corresponding action or
proceeding, are pre-requisites for the taking of other measures against the persons of the judges concerned, whether
of civil, administrative, or criminal nature. It is only after the available judicial remedies have been exhausted and the
appellate tribunals have spoken with finality, that the door to an inquiry into his criminal, civil, or administrative liability
may be said to have opened, or closed.
Flores resorted to administrative prosecution (or institution of criminal actions) as a substitute for or supplement to the
specific modes of appeals or review provided by law from court judgments or orders, on the theory that the Judges'
orders had caused him "undue injury." This is impermissible, as this Court has already more than once ruled. Law
and logic decree that "administrative" or criminal remedies are neither alternative nor cumulative to judicial review
where such review is available, and must wait on the result thereof. Indeed, since judges must be free to judge,
without pressure or influence from external forces or factors, they should not be subject to intimidation, the fear of
civil, criminal or administrative sanctions for acts they may do and dispositions they may make in the performance of
their duties and functions; and it is sound rule, which must be recognized independently of statute, that judges are not
generally liable for acts done within the scope of their jurisdiction and in good faith; and that exceptionally,
prosecution of the judge can be had only if "there be a final declaration by a competent court in some appropriate
proceeding of the manifestly unjust character of the challenged judgment or order, and ** also evidence of malice or
bad faith, ignorance of inexcusable negligence, on the part of the judge in rendering said judgment or order" or under
the stringent circumstances set out in Article 32 of the Civil Code.
As earlier stated, it is the act of respondent in conducting the judicial proceedings abroad without authority from the
Court that constitutes gross misconduct for which he should be administratively liable. Under Section 11, Rule 140 of
the Rules of Court, gross misconduct is a serious charge punishable by dismissal from the service; suspension from
office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; and a fine of more
than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00. The fact that this is respondents first offense in his 9 years of judicial
service with a good performance record is a mitigating circumstance. Hence, we find that suspension for six months
without salary and other benefits is a just penalty to impose upon respondent.
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Judge guilty of gross misconduct, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the service for
six (6) months without salary and other benefits. He is WARNED that the commission in the future of the same or
similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 162371. August 25, 2005
MARY HELEN ESTRADA, Petitioners,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and HON. BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA, Respondent.
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

This resolves the petition for review on certiorari seeking the reversal of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
promulgated on October 28, 2003, and the CA Resolution dated February 23, 2004, denying petitioners motion for
reconsideration; together with the letter of petitioner dated January 18, 2005 which was treated by the Court as a
petition for habeas corpus alleging that the Decision dated July 2, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las
Pias City, Branch 275, imposed upon petitioner an erroneous and excessive penalty.
The present case has its origin in a criminal case filed against petitioner. An Information charging petitioner with
estafa was filed with the RTC of Las Pias City. In view of the fact that petitioner jumped bail, the RTC issued an
Order dated May 14, 1997, considering petitioner to have waived her right to present evidence. Thus, the RTC
rendered judgment based only on prosecution evidence and made the following conclusions:
Junimar Bermundo applied for employment in Japan with the accused. Accused collected money from Junimar and
his wife in the total amount of P68,700.00.
These payments were all evidenced by various receipts bearing different dates.

Junimar and his wife were able to pay the accused by using the money they obtained from a loan with the Luzon
Development Bank using their parcel of land located at Pangao, Lipa City as collateral (Exh. "L").
After making the necessary payments, the accused told Junimar to proceed to the Japanese Embassy to claim the
plane tickets in December 1993, but when they went to the Japanese Embassy, they were told that nothing was filed
with their office. Junimar then informed the accused what happened and the latter accompanied him the second time
to the Japanese Embassy. It was only at that time that accused filed the necessary documents. Accused told them
that if they would use the name of her daughter, the processing of their papers would be faster because her daughter
performs outside the country.
However, in the early part of 1994, the Japanese Embassy wrote a letter to Junimar requiring them to submit
documents but the accused failed to produce these documents. Junimar then decided to abandon his plan of going to
Japan and just get the money from the accused. Accused, however, failed to return the money despite receipt of a
demand letter the witness made (Exh. "I" & "J", tsn, Sept. 5, 1995, pp. 2-9).
Under the established facts, accused indeed deceived Junimar Bermundo and Rosalie Bermundo by means of false
pretenses and fraudulent misrepresentations which induced the Bermundos to deliver to the accused their (sic)
amount of P68,700.00 which amount accused applied and used for her own benefit to the damage and prejudice of
Junimar and Rosalie Bermundo.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is rendered finding accused GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt as charged which is punished under Article 315, par. 2 (a), and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, accused MARY HELEN ESTRADA is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term of
TWELVE (12) YEARS of prision mayor maximum as minimum to TWENTY-FOUR (24) YEARS as maximum; to pay
back the sum of P68,700.00 to Junimar Bermundo and Rosalie Bermundo; and to pay the costs. 2
In a petition for certiorari and/or mandamus filed with the CA, petitioner assailed the decision of the RTC, alleging the
same to be null and void for having been rendered in violation of petitioners constitutional rights.
The proceedings that transpired in the trial court are accurately set forth in the Decision of the CA dated October 28,
2003, as follows:
On October 24, 1994, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Danilo Uy filed an Information for estafa against petitioner Mary
Helen B. Estrada docketed as Criminal Case No. 94-6230

On January 23, 1995, petitioner signed an undertaking that in case of her failure to appear during the trial despite due
notice, her absence would constitute as an express waiver of her right to be present during trial and promulgation of
judgment and the lower court would then proceed with the hearing in absentia.
During the hearing on May 30, 1996, Atty. Ma. Nenette Quicho, counsel for petitioner, failed to appear. On motion of
the private prosecutor, the lower court directed Atty. Ma. Nenette Quicho to explain in writing within ten (10) days from
notice why she should not be cited for contempt.
After the presentation of evidence for the prosecution on March 31, 1997, the lower court scheduled the reception of
evidence for the petitioner on May 14, 1997. Counsel for petitioner failed to explain her absence in the previous
hearing. She was found guilty of contempt of court and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of one (1) day
imprisonment.
On May 14, 1997, in view of the fact that petitioner jumped bail, the lower court considered her to have waived the
presentation of her evidence and declared the case submitted for decision.
On June 13, 1997, a Notice of Appearance with Motion for Presentation of Evidence for the Defense was filed by Atty.
Herenio E. Martinez, as collaborating counsel for petitioner. He argued among others, that the fact that despite trial in
absentia and accuseds (petitioner) failure to surrender, still petitioner could present her evidence in support of her
defense because there were other witnesses who would testify for her. Hence, she prayed that the scheduled date for
promulgation of decision (June 18, 1997) be cancelled and she be allowed to present her evidence.
However, the subject decision was promulgated on July 2, 1997, convicting petitioner of the crime charged.
The Decision was entered in the Docket Book on September 3, 1997.
On December 1, 1999, petitioner moved for reconsideration and/or new trial stating that her constitutional rights to be
heard and to counsel were violated for the following reasons:
(1) counsel for petitioner was not served a copy of the Order dated March 31, 1997 citing her for contempt of court;
(2) counsel for petitioner was not served any copy of the Order dated May 14, 1997 declaring petitioner to have
waived her right to present evidence and set the date of promulgation of decision on June 18, 1994 (sic) at 2:00 p.m.;
(3) the order dated July 18, 1997 denying the motion for reception of petitioners evidence was not furnished counsel
for petitioner and it came after the judgment of conviction; and
(4) the penalty imposed was beyond that allowed by law.
On March 6, 2000 the motion for reconsideration was denied for lack of merit.
On April 5, 2000 petitioner filed her notice of appeal but was denied due course in an Order dated April 5, 2000.3
It also appears from the records that on September 13, 1999, petitioner was arrested and detained at the Las Pias
Police Station.4 This was a little over two years after the judgment of conviction against her had been entered in the
criminal docket book on September 3, 1997, and prior to the filing of a motion for reconsideration and/or new trial with
the trial court on December 1, 1999.
Petitioners appeal was denied due course by the trial court in its Order dated April 5, 2000 for having been filed
beyond the reglementary period.5 She then filed the aforementioned petition for certiorari and/or mandamus with the
CA, alleging that: the RTC judge violated petitioners constitutional right to due process by depriving petitioner of the
right to be assisted by counsel during the proceedings and failing to notify petitioner of the scheduled presentation of
defense evidence; the RTC judge imposed upon petitioner a penalty which was not authorized under the law for
which petitioner had been charged; the RTC judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess

of jurisdiction when he denied petitioners motion for reconsideration of the decision and/or motion for new trial;
neither petitioner nor her counsel has officially received a copy of the RTC decision, hence, the same has not yet
become final and executory at the time petitioner filed her motion for reconsideration and/or new trial; the RTC judge
acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when he denied due course to
petitioners appeal because petitioner filed her notice of appeal well within the fifteen-day period within which to
appeal, thus, it was the mandatory duty of the RTC judge to approve the notice of appeal.
On October 28, 2003, the CA promulgated its decision denying the petition for certiorari. The CA held that there was
no grave abuse of discretion committed by the RTC judge as his actions were anchored on Section 14 (2), Article III
of the 1987 Constitution which states that "after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the
accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable," and on Section 1(c), Rule
115 of the Rules of Court which provides that "[t]he absence of the accused without justifiable cause at the trial of
which he had notice shall be considered a waiver of his right to be present thereat." The CA further held that "[t]he
deprivation of her right to present evidence in her defense shall be deemed to include the non-admission of the
testimonies of the other witnesses other than the petitioner herself. This must be so because the deprivation of her
opportunity to present evidence due to unreasonable absences on the scheduled hearings is primarily intended to
safeguard the orderly administration of justice." Thus, the CA concluded that the trial courts action was well within its
jurisdiction.
The CA did not dwell on the propriety of the penalty imposed on petitioner although petitioner raised it as one of the
issues in the petition. In her motion for reconsideration of the CA Decision, petitioner called the CAs attention to this
fact, and also pointed out that although petitioner, by failing to appear at several trial dates, may be deemed to have
waived her right to be present during the proceedings, such waiver does not include a waiver of her right to present
evidence. On February 23, 2004, the CA issued a resolution denying the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.
Hence, petitioner filed the present petition for review on certiorari.
Previously, however, petitioner had filed an administrative case (A.M. OCA IPI No. 00-1002-RTJ) against Judge
Bonifacio Sanz Maceda of the RTC of Las Pias City, Branch 275 for gross ignorance of the law. In a Resolution
dated August 13, 2001, the Court dismissed said administrative complaint but issued a stern reminder to respondent
judge to be more cautious in computing the appropriate penalty in the future to avoid injustice.
In connection with said administrative case, petitioner, who is presently detained at the Correctional Institution for
Women, sent a letter dated January 18, 2005, wherein she emphasized that although the Courts Resolution of
August 13, 2001 issued such stern warning to respondent judge, the same resolution did not give any relief for the
injustice she is now suffering due to the erroneous penalty imposed on her. Thus, in said administrative case, the
Court issued a Resolution dated March 9, 2005, resolving to treat petitioners letter as a petition for habeas
corpus and ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on said letter-petition. Thereafter, the Office of the
Solicitor General filed its Comment where it was manifested that there is a pending petition for review
oncertiorari with the Court which turned out to be the herein petition under consideration, involving the issue of the
penalty imposed on petitioner.
Thus, in a Resolution dated July 5, 2005, the Court resolved to consolidate the letter/petition for habeas corpuswith
the instant petition for review on certiorari.
Petitioner alleges that the CA erred in deciding the case in a way not in accord with law or jurisprudence and
departed from the usual course of judicial proceedings. In support of said allegations, petitioner reiterated her
arguments that the trial court denied her the constitutional right to be heard and to be assisted by counsel by failing to
furnish her counsel copies of the order setting the date for reception of defense evidence on May 14, 1997, and the
order considering petitioner to have waived her right to present evidence in her defense; that the decision of the trial
court was null and void for imposing a penalty not authorized by law; that inasmuch as the decision was null and void,
the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners motion for reconsideration and/or new trial
on the ground that the assailed decision had become final; and that the CA utterly failed to resolve petitioners
submission that the trial courts decision was null and void by virtue of the excessive penalty imposed.

At the outset, the undisputed fact that petitioner jumped bail while trial was pending should be emphasized. In fact, it
appears that from the beginning, the address she furnished the trial court was incorrect. The trial courts process
server, Nap Manguserra, made a note on the subpoena he was trying to serve on petitioner, that "per ocular
inspection made, said address is a vacant lot subject person is unknown to her neighbors.6 From such fact alone,
petitioners arguments regarding the validity of the proceedings and promulgation of judgment in absentia for being in
violation of her constitutional right to due process are doomed to fail.
The holding of trial in absentia is authorized under Section 14 (2), Article III of the 1987 Constitution which provides
that "after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly
notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable." In fact, in People vs. Tabag,7 the Court even admonished the trial
court for failing to proceed with the trial of some accused who escaped from preventive detention, to wit:
Finally, the trial court also erred in not proceeding with the case against Laureo Awod and Artemio Awod after their
successful escape on 19 October 1989 while in preventive detention. They had already been arraigned.Therefore,
pursuant to the last sentence of paragraph (2), Section 14, Article III of the Constitution, trial against them
should continue and upon its termination, judgment should be rendered against them notwithstanding their
absence unless, of course, both accused have died and the fact of such death is sufficiently established.
Conformably with our decision in People v. Salas, their escape should have been considered a waiver of their
right to be present at their trial, and the inability of the court to notify them of the subsequent hearings did
not prevent it from continuing with their trial. They were to be deemed to have received notice. The same fact
of their escape made their failure to appear unjustified because they have, by escaping, placed themselves beyond
the pale and protection of the law. This being so, then pursuant to Gimenez v. Nazareno, the trial against the
fugitives, just like those of the others, should have been brought to its ultimate conclusion. Thereafter, the trial court
had the duty to rule on the evidence presented by the prosecution against all the accused and to render its
judgment accordingly. It should not wait for the fugitives re-appearance or re-arrest. They were deemed to
have waived their right to present evidence on their own behalf and to confront and cross-examine the
witnesses who testified against them.
It is obvious that the trial court forgot our rulings in Salas and Nazareno. We thus take this opportunity to admonish
trial judges to abandon any cavalier stance against accused who escaped after arraignment, thereby allowing the
latter to make a mockery of our laws and the judicial process. Judges must always keep in mind Salas and Nazareno
and apply without hesitation the principles therein laid down, otherwise they would court disciplinary
action.8 (Emphasis supplied)
From the foregoing pronouncement, it is quite clear that all of petitioners protestations that she was denied due
process because neither she nor her counsel received notices of the trial courts orders are all to naught, as by the
mere fact that she jumped bail and could no longer be found, petitioner is considered to have waived her right to be
present at the trial, and she and her counsel were to be deemed to have received notice.
Moreover, in the earlier case of People vs. Magpalao9, the Court already ruled that:
. . . once an accused escapes from prison or confinement or jumps bail or flees to a foreign country, he loses his
standing in court and unless he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the court he is deemed to have waived any
right to seek relief from the court.10
Nevertheless, in this case, records reveal that the trial court sent out notices to petitioner and her counsel. In a
Resolution dated September 30, 2002, the CA required the Office of the Solicitor General to submit proof of service
on petitioner and her counsel of the RTCs Order dated March 31, 1997 setting the date for reception of evidence on
May 14, 1997; the Order dated May 14, 1997 considering petitioner to have waived her right to present evidence in
her defense in view of the fact that she has jumped bail; and the RTC Decision dated July 2, 1997. On December 20,
2002, the Office of the Solicitor General, submitted such proof of service. Thus, in its Decision promulgated on
October 28, 2003, the CA made the factual finding that petitioner and her counsel were indeed duly served with
copies of the assailed RTC orders and decision at the addresses they submitted to the trial court. Factual findings of
the CA are conclusive on the parties and not reviewable by this Court.11 As held inMorandarte vs. Court of
Appeals,12 "inquiry upon the veracity of the CAs factual findings and conclusion is not the function of the Supreme
Court for the Court is not a trier of facts."

With the finding that petitioner and her counsel were duly notified of the hearing dates for reception of defense
evidence and the decision of the trial court, in addition to the undisputed fact that petitioner jumped bail when trial of
her case was pending, petitioners argument that the RTC Decision was null and void for having been rendered in
violation of petitioners constitutional right to due process, i.e., the right to be heard and be assisted by counsel, must
also fail.
Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective
sides of the controversy.13
In the present case, petitioner was afforded such opportunity. The trial court set a hearing on May 14, 1997 for
reception of defense evidence, notice of which was duly sent to the addresses on record of petitioner and her
counsel, respectively. When they failed to appear at the May 14, 1997 hearing, they later alleged that they were not
notified of said setting. Petitioners counsel never notified the court of any change in her address, while petitioner
gave a wrong address from the very beginning, eventually jumped bail and evaded court processes. Clearly,
therefore, petitioner and her counsel were given all the opportunities to be heard. They cannot now complain of
alleged violation of petitioners right to due process when it was by their own fault that they lost the opportunity to
present evidence.
The Court likewise upholds the validity of the promulgation in absentia of the RTC judgment and the RTCs Order
dated April 5, 2000, denying due course to petitioners notice of appeal for being filed beyond the reglementary
period. Section 6, Rule 120 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, the Rule applicable in this case since
promulgation was held before the effectivity of The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, provides:
Section 6. Promulgation of judgment --The judgment is promulgated by reading the same in the presence of the
accused and any judge of the court in which it was rendered. However, if the conviction is for a light offense, the
judgment may be pronounced in the presence of his counsel or representative. When the judge is absent or outside
of the province or city, the judgment may be promulgated by the clerk of court.
If the accused is confined or detained in another province or city, the judgment may be promulgated by the executive
judge of the Regional Trial Court having jurisdiction over the place of confinement or detention upon request of the
court that rendered the judgment. The court promulgating the judgment shall have authority to accept the notice of
appeal and to approve the bail bond pending appeal.
The proper clerk of court shall give notice to the accused personally or through his bondsman or warden and counsel,
requiring him to be present at the promulgation of the decision. In case the accused fails to appear thereat the
promulgation shall consist in the recording of the judgment in the criminal docket and a copy thereof shall be served
upon the accused or counsel. If the judgment is for conviction and the accuseds failure to appear was without
justifiable cause, the court shall further order the arrest of the accused, who may appeal within fifteen (15) days from
notice of the decision to him or his counsel. (Italics supplied)
Clearly, promulgation of judgment in absentia is allowed under the Rules. Hence, in Pascua vs. Court of Appeals,14 it
was held that such promulgation is valid provided the following essential elements are present: (a) that the judgment
be recorded in the criminal docket; and (b) that a copy thereof be served upon the accused or counsel. The factual
circumstances in said case are analogous to the case at bar.
In Pascua, the promulgation of judgment in said case was set on May 5, 1998. When the case was first called on that
date, petitioner was not present although her counsel of record was in court. The case was set for second call. After
the lapse of two hours, the accused still had not appeared, thus, the dispositive portion of the decision was read in
open court. Afterwards, counsel for the accused received a copy of the decision, and upon motion of the prosecution,
the trial court ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest and forfeiture of accuseds cash bond. No motion for
reconsideration or notice of appeal was filed by the accused within 15 days from May 5, 1998. On June 8, 1998,
accused, without discharging her counsel of record, filed through another lawyer a notice of change of address,
together with an omnibus motion to lift warrant of arrest and confiscation of bail bond, and also to set anew the
promulgation of the decision, alleging that the accused failed to appear at the scheduled promulgation because
notices for said schedule were sent to her former address, hence she was not able to receive any notice. Said motion

was denied by the trial court. The matter was brought to this Court where the accused argued that there was no valid
promulgation because she was not properly notified of the date thereof. The Court held thus:
Let us examine the validity of the May 5, 1998 promulgation which took place in the case at bar. The dispositive
portion of the decision convicting petitioner was read in open court, after which the public prosecutor, the defense
counsel Atty. Marcelino Arias, and private complainant Lucita Lopez, acknowledged receipt of their respective copies
of the decision by affixing their signatures at the back of the original of the decision on file with the record of the case.
Atty. Arias failed to file a notice of appeal within fifteen days from receipt of the decision. Is it proper to rule that the
period within which to file an appeal has lapsed?
In Florendo v. Court of Appeals (239 SCRA 325 [1994]), the facts are parallel to those of the instant case. We held
In the case at bench, a copy of the judgment was served to the counsel of petitioner on June 15, 1992; therefore, he
had only up to June 30, 1992 within which to appeal. The notice of appeal filed on July 6, 1992 was clearly out of
time.
It is presumed that official duties are regularly performed and that the proceedings are made of record. This serves as
a substantial compliance with the procedural requirement of the recording of the judgment in the criminal docket of
the court. At any rate, petitioner does not question non-compliance of the requirement of the recording of the
judgment in the criminal docket.
(At p. 329.)
Petitioner's first argument is devoid of merit. In the first place, her non-receipt of the notice of promulgation was due
to her own failure to immediately file a notice of change of address with the trial court, which she clearly admitted.
Besides, promulgation could be properly done even in her absence, subject to the service of a copy of the decision
upon her or her counsel and the recording of the judgment in the criminal docket.
In the present case, therefore, since the records bear out the fact that copies of the decision were sent by registered
mail to the given addresses of petitioner and her counsel, Atty. Herenio Martinez, and there is no question that the
judgment was indeed recorded in the criminal docket of the court, the promulgation was valid. The significance of
recording the decision in the criminal docket of the court was explained in Pascua, thus:
What is the significance of the recording of the judgment with the criminal docket of the court? By analogy, let us
apply the principles of civil law on registration.
Simply stated, registration is made for the purpose of notification (Paras, Civil Code of the Philippines, Vol. II,
1989 ed., p. 653, citing Bautista vs. Dy Bun Chin, 49 O.G. 179 [1952]).
Its purpose is to give notice thereof to all persons.
Applying the above-mentioned principles to the instant case, we are prompted to further examine the provisions on
promulgation in absentia.
As held in Florendo vs. Court of Appeals (supra), the rules allow promulgation of judgment in absentia to obviate the
situation where juridical process could be subverted by the accused jumping bail. But the Rules also provide
measures to make promulgation in absentia a formal and solemn act so that the absent accused, wherever he may
be, can be notified of the judgment rendered against him. As discussed earlier, the sentence imposed by the trial
court cannot be served in the absence of the accused. Hence, all means of notification must be done to let the absent
accused know of the judgment of the court. And the means provided by the Rules are: (1) the act of giving notice to
all persons or the act of recording or registering the judgment in the criminal docket (which Section 6 incidentally
mentions first showing its importance); and (2) the act of serving a copy thereof upon the accused (at his last known
address) or his counsel. In a scenario where the whereabouts of the accused are unknown (as when he is at large),
the recording satisfies the requirement of notifying the accused of the decision wherever he may be.

From the foregoing, petitioner is deemed notified of the decision upon its recording in the criminal docket on
September 3, 1997 and she only had fifteen (15) days therefrom within which to file an appeal. Evidently, the notice of
appeal filed only on April 5, 2000 was filed out of time.
However, the Court cannot close its eyes to the fact that the penalty imposed by the trial court on petitioner was
indeed erroneous. The dispositive portion of the RTCs Decision reads thus:
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is rendered finding accused GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt as charged which is punished under Article 315, par. 2 (a), and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, accused MARY HELEN ESTRADA is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term of
TWELVE (12) YEARS of prision mayor maximum as minimum to TWENTY-FOUR (24) YEARS as maximum; to pay
back the sum of P68,700.00 to Junimar Bermundo and Rosalie Bermundo; and to pay the costs.
Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period toprision
mayor in its minimum period shall be imposed if the amount of the fraud is over P12,000.00 but not overP22,000.00;
if the amount of fraud exceeds P22,000.00, the penalty provided for shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding
one year for each additional P10,000.00, but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years.
Thus, in this case, since the amount of fraud, which is P68,700.00, exceeds P22,000.00, the penalty should be
imposed in the maximum period. The range of the penalty provided for by law is composed of only two periods, thus,
to get the maximum period of the imposable penalty, the total number of years included in the two periods should be
divided into three. A computation produces the following results: the minimum period is 4 years, 2 months and 1 day
to 5 years, 5 months and 10 days; the medium period is 5 years, 5 months and 11 days to 6 years, 8 months and 20
days; and the maximum period is 6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years.15
The amount defrauded being in excess of P22,000.00, the penalty imposed should be the maximum period or 6
years, 8 months, and 21 days to 8 years of prision mayor. However, Art. 315 also provides that an additional one year
shall be imposed for each additional P10,000.00 amount of the fraud. Since the total amount of the fraud in this case
is P68,700.00 (P68,700.00 P22,000.00 = P46,700.00), an additional four (4) years of penalty should be imposed.
Thus, the correct imposable maximum penalty is anywhere between 10 years, 8 months and 21 days and 12 years
of prision mayor in its maximum period.
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum penalty that should have been imposed by the RTC should
be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code for the crime
committed. Thus, in this case, the minimum penalty should be anywhere between 6 months, and 1 day of prision
correccional in its minimum period and 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional in its medium period.
In Rigor vs. The Superintendent, New Bilibid Prison,16 this Court found it to be in the interest of justice to correct the
penalty imposed by the trial court so as to conform to the penalty prescribed by law despite the fact that the judgment
had already become final and executory for therein petitioners failure to take an appeal. Therein, the Court
expounded thus:
However, the Court noted a palpable error in the Joint Decision of the trial court that must be rectified in order to
avoid its repetition. The trial court erroneously included an additional one day on the maximum period of arresto
mayor imposed on petitioner, which is incorrect, as it is outside the range of said penalty.

In line with the ruling of the Court in People vs. Barro, Sr., to wit:
"However, where the penalty imposed on the co-accused who did not appeal was a nullity because it was never
authorized by law, that penalty imposed on the accused who did not appeal can be corrected to make it conform to
the penalty prescribed by law, the reason being that, said penalty can never become final and executory and it is
within the duty and inherent power of the Court to have it conformable with law."

the error of the trial court in the present case can be corrected to make it conform to the penalty prescribed by law as
it is within the Courts duty and inherent power. Thus, the correction to be made by this Court is meant only for the
penalty imposed against petitioner to be in accordance with law and nothing else. 17
Thus, pursuant to the foregoing ruling, the Court likewise sees it befitting in this case to modify the penalty imposed
on petitioner. It must be noted, though, that in the afore-quoted case, the Court also pointed out that the petition
for habeas corpus cannot be granted if the accused has only served the minimum of his sentence because he must
serve his sentence up to its maximum term.18
WHEREFORE, the letter/petition for habeas corpus is DENIED. The petition for review on certiorari is PARTLY
GRANTED insofar only as the penalty is concerned. In the interest of justice, the sentence of petitioner in Criminal
Case No. 94-6230 is MODIFIED as follows: Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law and there being no mitigating
or aggravating circumstance, petitioner is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate prison term of two (2) years of prision
correccional as MINIMUM to eleven (11) years of prision mayor as MAXIMUM.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 126029

March 27, 2003

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
REY SUNGA, RAMIL LANSANG, INOCENCIO PASCUA, LITO OCTAC and LOCIL CUI @ GINALYN
CUYOS,accused,
REY SUNGA, RAMIL LANSANG and INOCENCIO PASCUA, appellants.
CARPIO-MORALES, J.:
The sole, uncorroborated testimony of an accused who turned state witness may suffice to convict his co-accused if it
is given unhesitatingly and in a straightforward manner and is full of details which by their nature could not have been
the result of deliberate afterthought;1 otherwise, it needs corroboration the presence or lack of which may ultimately
decide the cause of the prosecution and the fate of the accused.
On July 12, 1994, the mutilated body of Jocelyn Tan (Jocelyn), a minor and a high school student of Palawan
Integrated National School, (PINS), was found at a coffee plantation in Jacana, Barangay Bancao-Bancao in Puerto
Princesa City, Palawan.
The hunt for the possible killers of Jocelyn was swift, several arrests having been made in a span of days, followed by
the conduct of the requisite preliminary investigation by the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) in Puerto Princesa
City which culminated in the filing before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Puerto Princesa City of the information for
rape with homicide against the suspects. The case was raffled to Branch 48 of the court.
Accused in the Information were Rey Sunga, Ramil Lansang, Inocencio Pascua, Jr., and Lito Octac as principals, and
Locil Cui alias Ginalyn Cuyos as accomplice the accusatory portion of the information dated September 6, 1994
reads as follows:
xxx
That on or about June 29, 1994 in the afternoon, at Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa City, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused conspiring and confederating together and
mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force,
violence and intimidation, to wit: by pinning down one JOCELYN TAN, a minor, fifteen (15) years of age,
succeeded in having carnal knowledge of her against her will and without her consent; that on the occasion
of said rape and to enable them to conceal the commission of the crime, the herein accused in furtherance
of the conspiracy together with LOCIL CUI, a minor, acting with discernment and who cooperated in the

execution of the offense as ACCOMPLICE, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, taking
advantage of their superior number and strength, with intent to kill, treacherously attack, assault, and use
personal violence upon JOCELYN TAN by repeatedly stabbing and smashing a stone on her head, thereby
inflicting upon her mortal wounds and multiple fractures on her skull which were the direct cause of her
death shortly thereafter.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
x x x.
The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 11984.
Upon arraignment all the accused pleaded not guilty.
On September 26, 1994, the accused through counsel filed a petition for bail,3 underscoring the weakness of the
Peoples evidence, there being no direct evidence against them, a fact admitted by the City Prosecutor in his
resolution4 for their indictment. Hearings on the bail petition were conducted in the course of which the prosecution,
after presenting several witnesses, filed on October 18, 1994 a motion to discharge5 accused Locil Cui (Locil) to be a
state witness, averring therein that the legal requisites for her discharge had been complied with, and submitting her
sworn statement6 which detailed how her co-accused carried out the crime. The respective counsels for the other
accused opposed the motion, insisting that it could only be filed during trial on the merits and that Locils testimony
was not absolutely necessary.7 By Order of October 20, 1994,8 the trial court deferred the resolution of the bail
petition until after the prosecution had rested its case, but it granted the motion to discharge Locil.
The accused assailed the discharge of Locil via a petition for certiorari and prohibition9 before the Court of Appeals
which issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the trial court from proceeding with the trial of the
case.10 The TRO lapsed, however, without a preliminary injunction being issued, hence, the trial of the case resumed.
Through state witness Locil, then 14 years old and an elementary school dropout who had been living away from her
parents and using the alias "Ginalyn Cuyos"11 to evade, by her own account,12 her mother and aunt who were looking
for her after she got pregnant (the pregnancy was later aborted), the prosecution established the following version:
At about 2:00 p. m. of June 29, 1994, Locil boarded a tricycle bearing the marking "Ryan-Ryan" from the Social
Security System (SSS) Office in Puerto Princesa City. Already on board the tricycle was a lesbian who had a
birthmark on the right side of the face and who invited Locil for a joy ride.13 Upon instruction of the lesbian, the tricycle
driver, whom she did not know but whom she later identified and who answered to the name Rey Sunga (Sunga),
repaired to the Mendoza Park.
At the Mendoza Park, the lesbian alighted and spoke to Jocelyn Tan, the victim, who was dressed in a PINS uniform.
The lesbian, together with Jocelyn, then joined Locil aboard the tricycle which was already driven by Inocencio
Pascua (Pascua) vice Sunga who had in the meantime left. Still aboard the tricycle, the four of them proceeded to
and reached Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa City and on reaching a forested area, Jocelyn was met by Sunga
who held her and by Ramil Lansang (Lansang) who wrapped his arm around her waist as they dragged her to a
nearby "buho" clumps. There, Jocelyn was made to lie down. Her skirt was raised and her panty was taken off by
Lansang. As she lay face up with both her hands held by Sunga and Pascua, Lansang stripped naked, placed himself
on top of Jocelyn, inserted his penis into her vagina and "seemed to be pumping."14
After Lansang, Sunga took turn to have sexual intercourse with Jocelyn as Lansang and one who was not known to
Locil and whom the latter described as one who has "chinky" or "narrow eyes," later identified to be Pascua, kept
Jocelyn pinned down by her hands.15
Pascua too subsequently had carnal knowledge of Jocelyn who all along struggled against her malefactors.16
After Pascua satisfied his lust, Sunga, with a sharp bladed weapon, stabbed the abdomen of the motionless Jocelyn,
drawing her to rise to a sitting position and clutch her abdomen. Sunga then passed on the bladed weapon to

Lansang who smashed Jocelyns head with an irregularly shaped stone, causing her to fall to the ground lifeless.
Locil, who witnessed everything, was then pulled by the lesbian and led back into the tricycle where they awaited
Lansang, Sunga and Pascua to ride with them. All five thereafter headed back to Puerto Princesa City proper, leaving
Jocelyns body behind.17
When the five reached the Mendoza Park where Locil alighted, she heard the voice of someone from inside the
tricycle warning her to keep mum about the incident, otherwise something would also happen to her. Locil then
repaired to her boarding house. Until she was arrested following the discovery on July 12, 1994 of Jocelyns corpse,
she did not report the incident to anyone.18
The other prosecution witnesses provided testimonies pertaining to circumstances after the fact.
Oscar Devilleres, a garbage truck driver, recalled that he was on his way home in Jacana, Barangay Bancao-Bancao
at 12:30 a. m. of June 30, 1994, a day after the incident, when from a distance of about 30 meters, he saw Lansang
walking back and forth and appearing restless near the coffee plantation in Jacana, Barangay Bancao-Bancao where
Jocelyns body was later found on July 12, 1994. Although it was then nighttime, Devilleres had a good look at
Lansang due to the illumination provided by the electric light post under which Lansang was situated.19
Igleceria Gabinete, a resident of Jacana, declared that she was among those who saw the mutilated body of Jocelyn
in the morning of July 12, 1994 at a coffee plantation near her place; that in the afternoon of that date and while
tending her sari-sari store, a tricycle arrived with three men on board, one of whom, Lito Octac (Octac) alighted,
leaving the two inside the tricycle who seemed to be hiding their faces; that one of those two men inside the tricycle
inquired from her whether the discovered corpse, that of Jocelyn, was from Barangay Caroray; that the following day,
she reported to the police about the three suspicious looking men who went to her store; and that two days later, she
was made to, as she did, identify Lansang at the police station as one of the men who went to her store in the
afternoon of July 12, 1994 and inquired as to Jocelyns corpse.20
Galahad Tan (Tan), Jocelyns father, recounted as follows: During the wake of his daughter at the Sampaton Funeral
Parlor, at 1:30 a. m. of July 14, 1994 (15th day following the incident), Lansang arrived and told him as follows: "Total
tayo ay magkaisang barangay lang ay ayosin natin itong kaso at magtulungan na lang, mayroon na akong alam na
makakapagturo kung sino and may kagagawan sa krimen. Huwag na lang nating sabihin sa mga polis." When he
asked Lansang who he was referring to, Lansang replied that he would return. Lansang did not return, however,
prompting Tan to relay to law enforcers the statements of Lansang, his neighbor who was courting Jocelyn at the time
and with whose family his own family was in good terms.21
Testifying on the autopsy she conducted on Jocelyn, Dr. Ma. Carla Gallego - Vigonte (Dr. Vigonte) affirmed the
following findings in her report22 dated July 12, 1994:
POST-MORTEM FINDINGS
1. The cadaver was seen in advanced stage of decomposition.
2. Depressed fracture noted at the frontal bone of the skull about 2 cm anterior to the bregma, measuring
2.5 cm in width and 3.5 cm in length, with a rounded hole at its right side with irregular edges measuring 4
cm x 5 cm in diameter; with a linear fracture about 2 cm in length extending from the depressed fracture up
to the bregma; linear fracture about 3 cm in length along the coronal suture, right side, extending from the
hole to the bregma.
3. Multiple linear fracture with lengths ranging from 2 cm to 5 cm, noted at the lambdoid suture, about 2 cm
right side of the lambda, extending to the right side of the occipital and parietal bones of the skull.
PROBABLE CAUSE OF DEATH: Intracranial Hemorrhage secondary to multiple fractures of the skull.
Dr. Vigonte opined that a blunt object or instrument like a hard wood or a rock caused the injury noted in post-mortem
finding no. 2 which was fatal, it being a deep wound in the skull affecting its inner organ and lacerating the tissues of

the brain, thus causing hemorrhage; that for said fatal wound, the assailant was probably at Jocelyns left side; that
for the injury in post-mortem finding no. 3, the attacker was at the back of Jocelyn; and that in light of the multiple
injuries, there were more than one perpetrator.23 Dr. Vigonte was, however, unable to determine whether Jocelyn was
also raped.24
The prosecution adduced documentary evidence consisting mainly of two supposed extrajudicial confessions made
by Sunga.
In a sworn statement (Exhibit "A")25 dated July 18, 1994 which was executed before SPO2 Jose P. Janoras (SPO2
Janoras), Sunga made the following disclosures:
At about 10:00 a. m. of the day of the incident, June 29, 1994, as he was then at work as a tricycle dispatcher,
Lansang arrived in a tricycle bearing the marking "Ryan-Ryan" and invited him to accompany him in fetching Jocelyn
at the PINS. He obliged and just before reaching their destination, Locil boarded the tricycle. At the gate of the school,
Lansang talked to Jocelyn who was then wearing the school uniform after which the two boarded the tricycle which
he (Sunga) drove to a spot at the corner of Rizal Avenue and Lacao St. in the Puerto Princesa City proper where the
four of them (Sunga, Lansang, Locil and Jocelyn) transferred to an "owners jeep" brought by Octac alias "Toto." The
group then proceeded to and reached Barangay Irawan at around 10:30 a. m. and at a forested area in Sitio Tagaud,
everyone alighted except for Octac. Lansang then forcibly undressed Jocelyn and raped her while he (Sunga) and
Locil watched. After consummating his carnal desire, Lansang hit Jocelyn with a 2" x 2" piece of wood on her head
and successively on different parts of her body. When Jocelyn was already dead, Locil also whacked Jocelyns body
many times. The group then headed back to the city proper, leaving Jocelyns remains at the scene of the crime.
In accordance with their previous agreement, he (Sunga), Lansang and Locil returned to Barangay Irawan aboard a
jeep driven by Octac four days after June 29, 1994 and took Jocelyns body for the purpose of bringing it to Jacana in
Barangay Bancao-Bancao in accordance with Lansangs wish. On their way to Bancao-Bancao, Locil inserted a
cigarette into the corpses mouth ". pinasigarilyo ni [Locil] ang bangkay upang ikubli sa maaaring makakita ang
tunay na kaanyuan ni Jocelyn Tan."26 At Barangay Bancao-Bancao, he (Sunga), Lansang and Locil carried the
victims body and left the same at a coffee plantation fifty meters away from Jacana Road while Octac served as a
lookout by the roadside. On their return to the city, the four parted ways at the corner of Rizal Avenue and Lacao
Street. He (Sunga) then drove the tricycle with the marking "Ryan-Ryan" with Locil aboard while Lansang and Octac
remained together at the jeep.27
The above sworn statement bears Sungas signature and that of his assisting counsel, Atty. Agustin Rocamora (Atty.
Rocamora), Puerto Princesa City Legal Officer.
Testifying as to the investigation he conducted upon Sunga, SPO2 Janoras recalled that he was on duty at the Puerto
Princesa City police precinct in the morning of July 18, 1994 when SPO4 Boy Pantollano and patrolman Bolos arrived
together with Sunga. The two brought Sunga inside a room and asked him questions pertaining to Jocelyns death
and after about thirty minutes, Sunga was presented before him (SPO2 Janoras) for investigation. He initially asked
Sunga whether he knew anything about Jocelyns death and Sunga replied affirmatively, prompting him to inform him
of his rights under custodial interrogation. After Sunga signified his desire to avail of the services of a lawyer, Sunga
chose Atty. Rocamora to be his counsel from among the names of lawyers mentioned by him (SPO2 Janoras). He
thereupon fetched Atty. Rocamora from his residence. Atty. Rocamora briefly conferred with Sunga, asking him if he
wanted to give a confession and informing him of the consequences thereof. Thereafter, the investigation proceeded
with Sunga voluntarily giving his answers to questions he (SPO2 Janoras) propounded at the end of which
investigation Sunga and Atty. Rocamora affixed their respective signatures on the recorded statement.28
The execution of Exhibit "A" was, during the preliminary investigation before the Municipal Trial Court,29 affirmed by
Sunga. Apart from acknowledging its contents, Sunga answered the investigating judges other queries as he
implicated Lansang, Locil and Octac in the killing of Jocelyn. This time, however, he alleged that not only Lansang
but also Octac raped Jocelyn, adding that he merely held Jocelyns hand.30
Subsequently or on August 3, 1994, Sunga executed another sworn statement (Exhibit "I")31 before Special
Investigator Reynaldo O. Abordo of the Puerto Princesa office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).Exhibit "I"
varied in a number of respects from Exhibit "A." In Exhibit "I," Sunga declared that in the morning of June 28, 1994 he

already had an agreement with Lansang to fetch Jocelyn from her school on the following day; that at 8:00 a. m. of
the following day, June 29, 1994, he, together with Lansang, Lito Octa (should be Octac) and a certain Jun left
Mendoza Park and proceeded to Irawan after asking Locil, one Bing Manila, and a certain Josie to fetch Jocelyn at
her school; that Jun drove the tricycle back to the city proper and he transported their female companions including
Jocelyn to Irawan; that at Irawan, Lansang raped the struggling Jocelyn whose hands were then held by Josie; that
after Lansang and Jun raped Jocelyn, Lansang smashed her head twice in accordance with his plan to kill her which
plan was known to him (Sunga), Locil, Octac and Jun; that at 1:30 a. m. of June 30, 1994, Lansang, Sunga, Octa and
Jun returned to Irawan, took Jocelyns corpse and dumped it at a coffee plantation in Jacana Road; and that he did
not take part in the rape or killing of Jocelyn but merely joined the group due to Lansangs promise to give him
P500.00. Exhibit "I" embodied a waiver by Sunga of his right to counsel.32
The prosecution evidence with respect to Jocelyns familys incurring of the amount of P11,000.00 for Jocelyns
funeral expenses was admitted by the defense.33
Upon the other hand, all the accused proffered alibi.
Accused-appellant Sunga, who had previously been convicted for robbery with homicide, denied having anything to
do with the rape and killing of Jocelyn. He branded as false the testimony of Locil whom he claimed is a prostitute
and a pimp and was always seen loitering at Mendoza Park. While he acknowledged knowing Octac and Pascua, he
denied being in their company on June 29, 1994 or in Lansangs.34
Confronted with his sworn statement-Exhibit "A," Sunga explained the circumstances behind his execution thereof as
follows: After having been arrested without a warrant by the police in the evening of July 15, 1994 at the corner of
Rizal and Valencia streets while "picking up passengers," he was brought to the police station where he was
subjected to violence and intimidation by SPO2 Pantollano and a certain Ka Ronnie to coerce him to "pinpoint to
anybody", and he involuntarily did. After being mauled and kicked, he was made to appear before police investigator
Janoras on that same night of July 15, 1994 during which he signed the second and third pages of a three paged
affidavit embodying his questioned extrajudicial confession without the assistance of counsel and under threats and
intimidation from SPO2 Pantollano. He was later brought on July 18, 1994 to the Capitol building where he signed the
first page of his confession after which Atty. Agustin Rocamora also signed the same.35
As to his other sworn statement-Exhibit "I" executed before the NBI, Sunga initially affirmed having given the answers
to questions propounded therein by the NBI Investigator and having executed the "confession" for the purpose of
applying to become a state witness in the case.36 He subsequently retracted his acknowledgement of Exhibit "I" as
his own confession.37 While he admitted having participated in the preliminary investigation at the MTCC of Puerto
Princesa City, he could not remember having given most of the statements he made therein.38
The defense presented other witnesses.
Joel Esquela Mayo (Mayo), an employee of Puerto Princesa Citys crime watchdog "Bantay Puerto," declared that in
the morning of July 14, 1994 he and a co-employee Miguel Abrina (Abrina) were at Jacana in Barangay BancaoBancao upon orders from their superior to be on the lookout for the possible return thereto of the perpetrators behind
Jocelyns killing; seeing Locil uneasy as she alighted from a tricycle, they approached and asked her how she was
related to Jocelyn to which she replied that she was a friend; then Locil brought the two to the very spot where
Jocelyns remains were found and while there she acted as if she was looking for something; Locil later commented
that it was there that Jocelyn and she had a fight; and Locil was subsequently apprehended by the police.39
Abrina substantially corroborated Mayos story.40
Another witness, Orlando Lacsamana (Lacsamana), a detainee at the Puerto Princesa City jail, testified that while he
was conversing with Locil, also a detainee, on August 15, 1994, they saw Lansang being brought inside. Lacsamana
asked Locil if she knew Lansang but she denied having known Lansang or having been her companion.41

Detention prisoners John Pulga (Pulga) and Jerry Galgarin (Galgarin) as well as Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology (BJMP) personnel Joel Rabanal (Rabanal) and SPO2 Conrado Guzman Rafael (SPO2 Rafael) testified as
to Locils failure to correctly identify Lansang on separate occasions.
Thus detention prisoner Pulga narrated that on July 21, 1994, he was made to form part of a police line-up together
with three other detainees; and that when Locil was asked by the police to identify who among them was Lansang,
she pointed to him (Pulga) whom she called Ramil Lansang.42
Corroborating Pulgas testimony was BJMP personnel Rabanal who brought out Pulga and the three others for the
police line-up, he too alleging that Locil indeed pointed to Pulga as Lansang.43
Detention prisoner Galgarin, who was detained at the 263rd Mobile Post of the Philippine National Police on July 23,
1994, declared that he saw Locil arrive in a police car after which Lansang and three other detainees were made to
stand in a police line-up; and that when Locil was asked to identify Lansang, she said he was not there.44
SPO2 Rafael testified that while he was on duty in the aforesaid PNP Mobile Post on August 23, 1994, Locil hesitated
to identify Lansang even after the police assured her not to be afraid.45
Accused-appellant Pascua disclaimed knowledge of anyone of his co-accused prior to the June 29, 1994 incident. He
denied having anything to do with the killing or rape of Jocelyn and branded Locils account as a lie. He claimed that
he was staying with his uncle Victor de Felipe at 27 E. Burgos St., Puerto Princesa City from April to July 14, 1994;
that while he was driving the tricycle with the marking "Ryan-Ryan" for a living, he returned it to its owner on June 27,
1994 due to engine trouble and never drove it again; that at about 8:00 a. m. of June 29, 1994, he, together with his
uncle Victor De Felipe and a carpenter, went to San Pedro also in Puerto Princesa City where he helped in
recovering materials from De Felipes demolished house thereat for use in the latters other residence at Burgos St.;
and that he was at San Pedro until 4:00 p. m. of the same day.46
Continuing, Pascua declared that on July 14, 1994, he left for his stepfathers home at Barangay Burirao of the town
of Narra where he was, on July 23, 1994, arrested without a warrant by the police on suspicion that he might have
been involved in the subject crime, he having driven for sometime the tricycle bearing the marking "Ryan-Ryan;" that
the apprehending policemen sought his cooperation so he could be utilized as a witness against Lansang, even
offering him a P100,000.00 reward and his exclusion from the criminal information, but he refused for he knew
nothing about the crime; that inside a small room at the police station in the city, he again refused to obey SPO4
Pantollanos order for him to say certain things about the crime, thereby infuriating Pantollano who threatened to
implicate him; that while still under detention on July 24, 1994, he was brought before Locil for identification purposes
but Locil denied knowing him; and that he did not go into hiding after June 29, 1994 for he took up a farming course
at the Palawan National Agricultural College (PNAC).47
Victor De Felipe corroborated his accused nephews testimony as to his whereabouts on June 29, 1994 and his
returning the tricycle two days before the incident.48 Felix Mayor, De Felipes carpenter, confirmed Pascuas being
with him and De Felipe the whole day of June 29, 1994 at Barangay San Pedro to retrieve building materials from De
Felipes demolished house in the said place.49
The testimony of witness Espiridion Labotoy was dispensed with when the prosecution admitted its corroboration of
Pascuas allegation that the latter returned the tricycle to its owner on June 27, 1994.50
Filomena Pascua-Tesorio also corroborated her nephew Pascuas claim that Locil did not identify him as one of those
who wronged Jocelyn. And she added that during her visit to Pascua at the police station on July 24, 1994, she asked
Locil if she was acquainted with Pascua and she replied in the negative, saying it was her first time to see Pascua.51
Cesar Batin (Batin), an instructor at PNAC, attested that Pascua was enrolled at PNAC Abo-Abo Center in Brookes
point on July 18, 1994 but that he attended classes for only about a week and resumed his studies on August 16,
1994 until October 11, 1994. Batin affirmed the certification he issued as to Pascuas school attendance.52

Pascuas mother Teodora Espaola testified that she accompanied her arrested son when he was brought by the
police to Puerto Princesa City on July 23, 1994 and confirmed that the policemen offered Pascua a reward in
exchange for his admitting responsibility for the crime but that she rebuffed them.53
Lito Octac, also clinging to alibi, alleged that on the day of the incident he was working at Pambato Forwarder loading
cargoes and pieces of baggage, in support of which he presented an entry (Exhibit "9")54 in his employers logbook
showing that he reported for work from 1:00 to 5:00 p. m. of June 29, 1994.55
Lansang, who operated a pump boat that ferried passengers from Barangay Caruray, San Vicente, Palawan where
his parents reside, to Barangay Bahile, Puerto Princesa City and vice-versa, declared as follows: At about 8:30 a. m.
of June 29, 1994, he met his sister Gloria Negosa in her office at the Philippine Ports Authority for the purpose of
borrowing from her P3,000.00 which he would use to buy pieces of plywood and paint for his boat. His sister,
however, directed him to get the money from his mother who happened to be at her office at the time and who
received two PCIB checks both dated June 29, 1994 payable to cash, one in the amount of two thousand (P2,000.00)
pesos, and another in the amount of Nine Thousand Six Hundred Sixteen (P9,616.00) pesos from Gloria. Shortly
after, he and his mother went to the PCI Bank where he, instead of his mother who did not have any identification
card and Community Tax Certificate, did the encashing (at 9:53 a. m.) of the checks- (Exhibits "12" and "12-A"). The
two left the bank and proceeded to the Palawan Poultry store from which they purchased fertilizer. Thereafter, they
bought plywood and paint at the Unico Merchandising.56 (An official receipt dated June 6, 1994 of P2,206
representing the purchase price of the goods was marked as Exhibit "11".)57
Continuing, Lansang declared that while his mother left to make her other purchases, he remained at the Unico
Merchandising until 12:00 noon when he went to the house of his brothers-in-law to pick up her mothers goods. At
the said house, he briefly met a resident thereof named Ariel Bactad and then took his mothers goods. He loaded all
their purchases in a jeep bound for Barangay Bahile from which point they were to be transported via a pump boat to
his parents home in Barangay Caruray. As his mother no longer showed up, he was constrained to accompany his
cargo aboard the jeep which departed at 1:00 p. m. and reached Barangay Bahile at 3:00 p. m. of the same day, June
29, 1994. At Barangay Bahile, he loaded the goods into his boat with the help of the boat driver, Arnel Tulonghari. He
then took lunch at the carinderia of a certain Jerry (or Jerico) Rufano where he waited in vain for two hours for his
mother to come to Barangay Bahile. At 5:00 p. m. of June 29, 1994, Rufano drove him to Barangay Salvacion where
he got a jeepney ride on his way home to the city proper, arriving there at about 8:30 p. m. still of the same day.58
Lansang further declared that he had never been to Barangay Irawan or to Jacana in Barangay Bancao-Bancao.
While he admitted that he, together with one Joel Egaa, went to the Sampaton Funeral Parlor in the evening of July
13, 1994 to condole with the Tans, he denied having told Tan that he (Lansang) knew somebody who could pinpoint
those responsible for the crime. He likewise denied asking Tan to refrain from seeking the assistance of law
enforcers, he having merely informed Tan that Sunga, with whom (he) Lansang got to be acquainted earlier that
same evening, knew Jocelyn. Finally, Lansang disclaimed having been Jocelyns suitor for he had a live-in partner
named Mary Ann Dineros whom he intended to marry but could not do so due to his indictment in the case at bar.59
Witnesses Jerry Rufano, Arnel Tulonghari and Ariel Bactad corroborated pertinent parts of Lansangs testimony as to
his whereabouts and activities on June 29, 1994.60
Joel Egaa also affirmed having accompanied Lansang to Sampaton Funeral parlor on the night of July 13, 1994.61
Melisa P. Mateo, on the other hand, testified that as a bank teller of PCI Bank, she received and processed for
encashment the two checks (Exhibit "12")62 from Lansang at almost 10:00 a. m. of June 29, 1994, which checks as
well as Lansangs signatures and hers and other inscriptions thereon she identified.63
Edgardo Caisip declared that he was the driver of the jeepney which Lansang rode on together with his cargo for a
trip from the city proper to Barangay Bahile from 1:00 to 3:00 p. m. of June 29, 1994. Caisip added that he already
knew Lansang before that time, the Lansangs having been his usual passengers.64
Finally, Freddie Gallego, a barangay councilor of Barangay Caruray, claimed that Lansang was with him in the
afternoon of July 12, 1994 on the occasion of a birthday party in the said barangay.65

By decision of March 7, 1996, the trial court convicted Sunga and Lansang as principals of the crime of Rape with
Homicide and sentenced each to suffer the penalty of DEATH, and Pascua as principal in the crime of Rape. The
dispositive portion of the decision reads, quoted verbatim:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds accused REY SUNGA and RAMIL LANSANG GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt as principals of the crime charged and are sentenced to each suffer the penalty of
DEATH. Accused INOCENCIO PASCUA, JR., is also found GUILTY as principal of the crime of Rape and is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA. Accused RAMIL LANSANG, REY
SUNGA and INOCENCIO PASCUA, JR. are jointly and severally liable to indemnify the heirs of Jocelyn Tan
the sum of P150,000.00 as moral, actual and compensatory damages with all the accessory penalties
provided for the law and to pay the costs.
For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused LITO OCTAC beyond reasonable doubt, he is
hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged.
It appearing that Lito Octac is detained and Locil Cui alias Ginalyn Cuyos is still under the custody of the
PNP, Puerto Princesa City their release are hereby ordered unless held for other lawful cause or causes.
The City Jail Warden of Puerto Princesa City and Chief of Jimmy Carbonell of Puerto Princesa City, are
hereby ordered to transfer immediately the bodies of accused REY SUNGA and RAMIL LANSANG to the
New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila pending review by the Supreme Court of this decision.
SO ORDERED.66
Hence, the automatic review of the case by this Court pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
Sunga, Lansang and Pascua filed their respective appeal briefs.
In the Appellees Brief, the Solicitor General prays for the affirmance of Sunga and Lansangs conviction and the
modification of Pascuas conviction such that he be also convicted for rape with homicide and sentenced to suffer the
penalty of death.
The issues in the case boil down to:
(1) Whether the discharge by the lower court of Locil Cui as a state witness is in accordance with law; and
(2) Whether the guilt of appellants has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
After examining the record of the proceedings prior to the trial courts questioned issuance of the order discharging
Locil to become, as she did, a state witness, this Court is satisfied that there was nothing irregular therewith. Her
discharge was ordered in the course of what originally were hearings on the petition of the accused for bail and after
the prosecution had presented several of its witnesses and submitted Locils sworn statement. Contrary to accuseds
counsels argument that a motion for discharge could only be filed during trial on the merits, it could be done at any
stage of the proceedings, and discharge can be effected from the filing of the information to the time the defense
starts to offer any evidence.67
From the records, it appears that the following conditions for Locils discharge under Section 9, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules of Court were satisfied:
1. the discharge must be with the consent of the accused sought to be a state witness;
2. his testimony is absolutely necessary;

3. no other direct evidence is available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed except his
testimony;
4. his testimony can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
5. he does not appear to be the most guilty; and
6. he has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
It is undisputed that at the start of the trial, the prosecution did not have direct evidence, testimonial or otherwise, to
establish the culpability of the accused.
Based on Locils sworn statement, she was the only person who saw what happened to Jocelyn. Her testimony was
thus indispensable. That she did not appear to be the most guilty among the accused and that she had not been
convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude were shown, as was the susceptibility of material corroboration of
her testimony at the time of her discharge in view of the other evidence in the hands of the prosecution.
That the trial court ordered Locils discharge a day before the scheduled hearing on the motion for her discharge is of
no moment. The requirement of "a hearing in support of the discharge" had been substantially complied with when
the trial court, during the hearings on the bail petition, already received evidence from the prosecutionincluding Locils
sworn statement and also heard in open court the defenses arguments in opposition thereto. A hearing did take place
but interspersed with the hearings on the bail petition. So long as the trial court was able to receive evidence for and
against the discharge, its subsequent order granting or denying the motion for discharge is in order notwithstanding
the lack of actual hearing on said motion.68
In fine, even if Locils discharge failed to comply with all the requirements embodied in Section 9, Rule 119 of the
Rules of Court, her testimony would not, for that sole reason, be discarded or disregarded for, in the discharge of a
co-defendant, the trial court may reasonably be expected to commit error which is not reversible, the underlying
principle being that it does not affect the competency and quality of testimony of the discharged defendant.69
From the prosecution evidence, the testimony of the erstwhile accused-turned state witness Locil is the most pivotal,
for it is an eyewitness account of what transpired before and at the time of Jocelyns death. Her testimony is the only
direct evidence identifying appellants and relating in detail their specific overt acts.
Yet like any other testimony, this Court may not readily accept Locils statements hook, line and sinker because in the
assessment of the testimony of a co-accused-turned state witness, the same must be received with great caution and
must be carefully scrutinized.70
The rule in this jurisdiction is that the testimony of a self-confessed accomplice or co-conspirator imputing the blame
to or implicating his co-accused cannot, by itself and without corroboration, be regarded as proof to a moral certainty
that the latter committed or participated in the commission of the crime. The testimony must be substantially
corroborated in its material points71 by unimpeachable testimony and strong circumstances and must be to such an
extent that its trustworthiness becomes manifest.72
Was Locils testimony corroborated in its material points by the prosecutions other evidence? If in the affirmative, was
the corroborative evidence unimpeachable testimony and strong circumstances to such an extent that
Locilstrustworthiness becomes manifest?
Appellant Sungas two extrajudicial confessions, which strictly speaking were admissions for they referred to
statements of fact which did not directly involve an acknowledgement of guilt or of the criminal intent to commit the
offense with which he was charged,73 could have lent corroborative support to Locils testimony, having likewise given
details of how the crime took place. Contrary, however, to the trial courts ruling, this Court finds Sungas admissions
to be inadmissible in evidence not only against him but also against his co-accused appellants.

A person under investigation for the commission of an offense is guaranteed the following rights by the Constitution:
(1) the right to remain silent; (2) the right to have competent and independent counsel of his own choice, and to be
provided with one if he cannot afford the services of counsel; and (3) the right to be informed of these rights.74
The right to counsel was denied Sunga during his execution of Exhibit "A" - admission before the police on the
ground that the counsel who assisted him, Atty. Agustin Rocamora, was the City Legal Officer of Puerto Princesa.
In People v. Bandula,75 this Court made it sufficiently clear that the independent counsel for the accused in custodial
investigations cannot be a special counsel, public or private prosecutor, counsel of the police, or a municipal attorney
whose interest is admittedly adverse to the accused. A legal officer of the city, like Atty. Rocamora, provides legal aid
and support to the mayor and the city in carrying out the delivery of basic services to the people, which includes
maintenance of peace and order and, as such, his office is akin to that of a prosecutor who unquestionably cannot
represent the accused during custodial investigation due to conflict of interest.76 That Sunga chose him to be his
counsel, even if true, did not render his admission admissible. Being of a very low educational attainment,77 Sunga
could not have possibly known the ramifications of his choice of a city legal officer to be his counsel. The duty of law
enforcers to inform him of his Constitutional rights during custodial interrogations to their full, proper and precise
extent does not appear to have been discharged.
Notatu dignum is the fact that nothing in the records shows that Atty. Rocamora exerted efforts to safeguard Sungas
rights and interests, especially that of his right not to be a witness against himself. In fact, glaringly, Atty. Rocamora
was not even made to testify so he could have related the extent of legal assistance he extended to Sunga at the
police station. This Court is thus constrained to rely on the following verbatim testimony of SPO2 Janoras which
described how Atty. Rocamora assisted Sunga during the investigation:
ATTY. ENRIQUEZ (Defense Counsel) Q:
Did not Atty. Rocamora warn you, as the investigator, that simply he is invoking his clients right to
remain silent? Did not Atty. Rocamora first confer with the accused Rey Sunga prior to the investigation?
A:

They conversed.

Q:
You said a while ago that immediately upon your arrival you already started the investigation. And
now you are claiming that they had a conversation first. Which is correct?
A:
They conversed for a very short while because everybody was already there. I was on my typewriter
and they were seated just very near me (Emphasis supplied.)78
xxx
ATTY. CRUZAT (Defense Counsel) Q:
And you informed Atty. Rocamora that allegedly Mr. Rey Sunga wanted to confess his alleged
participation in the commission of the offense, Mr. Witness?
A:

Yes, sir.

Q:
And so upon arrival at the police station it did not take Atty. Rocamora a long time to confer with Rey
Sunga before the alleged investigation started, as you said 6:00 oclock in the morning?
A:

Yes, sir. It did not take long because they were already ready (Emphasis supplied.)79
xxx

COURT -

Q:

Who propounded the questions to accused Rey Sunga?

A:

I was the one, Your Honor.

Q:

And who gave the answers?

A:

Rey Sunga was the one answering me, Your Honor.


Continue.

PROSECUTOR GONZALES Q:
And what, if any, did Atty. Agustin Rocamora do, if any, at the time these questions were being asked
Rey Sunga?
A:

He instructed Rey Sunga to just answer the questions, sir (Emphasis supplied.)80
xxx

From the foregoing testimony of SPO2 Janoras, it can be gathered that Atty. Rocamora did not, if at all, fully apprise
Sunga of his rights and options prior to giving his (Sungas) admission. Evidently, Atty. Rocamora, without more,
merely acted to facilitate the taking of the admission from Sunga.
Moreover, that Sunga was first questioned by SPO4 Pantollano and Patrolman Bolos before he was investigated by
SPO2 Janoras does not escape the attention of this Court. Although Sunga failed to present evidence as to the
maltreatment he claimed to have suffered in the hands of SPO4 Pantollano and Patrolman Bolos, he did not have
any lawyer by his side at the time these two policemen started asking him questions about Jocelyns death. At that
point, Sunga was already under custodial investigation without the assistance of counsel.
Custodial investigation is the stage "where the police investigation is no longer a general inquiry into an unsolved
crime but has begun to focus on a particular suspect taken into custody by the police who carry out a process of
interrogation that lends itself to elicit incriminating statements (Italics in the original; Emphasis supplied.).81 Under
such circumstances, this Court cannot but entertain serious misgivings as to the admission Sunga subsequently gave
to SPO2 Janoras.
Like Exhibit "A," Sungas second extrajudicial admission-Exhibit "I" is inadmissible, due to the absence of counsel to
assist him when he executed it on August 3, 1994 before the NBI of Puerto Princesa City. Although Sunga declared in
open court that he made such admission in connection with his desire to apply as state witness which admission he
later repudiated, this does not make Exhibit "I" admissible. Sunga was at the time still under detention at the NBI
office and had been languishing in jail since his arrest in mid-July 1994. His desire to regain his freedom is not difficult
to understand, he having lost it once due to his conviction for another crime. His admission which was done without
the benefit of counsel consisted of answers to questions propounded by the investigating agent of the NBI and not of
a unilateral declaration of his participation in the crime. To this Court, these conditions are constitutive of an
atmosphere pervading that of a custodial investigation and necessitating the assistance of
a competent and independent counsel of Sungas choice as a matter of right but which he had none.
Any information or admission given by a person while in custody which may appear harmless or innocuous at the
time without the competent assistance of an independent counsel must be struck down as inadmissible.82 Even if the
confession contains a grain of truth or even if it had been voluntarily given, if it was made without the assistance of
counsel, it is inadmissible.83
The waiver by Sunga of his right to counsel as contained in his sworn statement-Exhibit "I" was not a valid waiver for,
on its face, it was executed not in the presence of counsel, contrary to the express requirement of the Constitution.84

Sunga having had no counsel when he made his admission before the NBI and his waiver of the right to have one
being invalid, his statement- Exhibit "I" is inadmissible.
The testimony of Sunga during the preliminary investigation before the Municipal Trial Court whereby he expressly
acknowledged having executed Exhibit "A" and affirmed the contents thereof did not render his extrajudicial
admission into a judicial one which could be used against him and his co-appellants. Neither could his other
statements in such proceeding admitting his participation in the crime be utilized to establish his and the other
appellants guilt. For in that preliminary investigation, Sunga again was effectively denied of his essential right to
counsel. Atty. Rocamora was appointed Sungas counsel de officio but just like the assistance he extended during the
execution of Exhibit "A," Atty. Rocamora utterly did nothing in defense of Sungas cause. While Sunga was being
asked by the judge a barrage of questions calling for answers which could and did incriminate him, Atty. Rocamora
did not offer the slightest objection to shield his client from the damning nature thereof.
The right to counsel applies in certain pretrial proceedings that can be deemed "critical stages" in the criminal
process.85 The preliminary investigation can be no different from the in-custody interrogations by the police, for a
suspect who takes part in a preliminary investigation will be subjected to no less than the States processes,
oftentimes intimidating and relentless, of pursuing those who might be liable for criminal prosecution. In the case at
bar, Sunga was thrust into the preliminary investigation and while he did have a counsel, for the latters lack of
vigilance and commitment to Sungas rights, he was virtually denied his right to counsel.
The right to counsel involves more than just the presence of a lawyer in the courtroom or the mere propounding of
standard questions and objections; rather it means an efficient and decisive legal assistance and not a simple
perfunctory representation.86 As in People v. Abano87 where the confession by the therein accused in the preliminary
investigation was excluded as inadmissible due to the absence of her counsel, this Court will not admit Sungas. This
makes it unnecessary to discuss and emphasize the conflict on material points of Sungas and Locils accounts of the
incident.
As for the rest of the prosecution evidence, it fails to corroborate Locils testimony. The declarations of witnesses Tan,
Devilleres and Gabinete can in no way enhance the veracity of the essential, material aspects of Locils account for
they relate not to the crime itself but to events thereafter.
Tans testimony that Lansang informed him that he knew someone who could reveal the identity of Jocelyns
assailants and that Lansang suggested to him to no longer report to the police does not at all constitute incriminating
evidence, for there was no admission, express or implied, by Lansang of any wrongdoing or criminal participation on
his part. Besides, why would Lansang suggest to Tan not to report to the police when the police early on had its
hands full in trying to solve the crime.
Dr. Vigontes affirmation of her finding of a fatal injury on Jocelyns head is supportive only of the fact that the victim
was hit with something on her head which caused her death, but this by no means is evidence that appellants
inflicted said fatal injury.
As for the circumstances testified to by the other witnesses, they do not, by and in themselves, rise to the level of
circumstantial evidence which warrant appellants conviction.
In the appreciation of circumstantial evidence, there must be at least two proven circumstances which in complete
sequence lead to no other logical conclusion than that of the guilt of the accused.88 The circumstances that Lansang
was seen on June 30, 1994, a day after the incident, walking back and forth and appearing restless near the place
where Jocelyns body was eventually found; that Lansang was in the company of Octac and inquired, the day after
Jocelyns body was discovered on July 12, 1994, if Jocelyn was from Barangay Caruray; that Lansang told Jocelyns
father that he knew someone who could pinpoint those responsible for the crime; and that Jocelyn was fatally hit on
the head by a blunt object are too fragile to lead to the inference that Lansang and his co-appellants are liable for
Jocelyns rape and slaying. These circumstances in the scheme of things are not indubitable pieces of evidence of a
persons commission of a crime for they are susceptible of explanations which do not necessarily speak of guilt or
culpability.

Standing alone and uncorroborated, can Locils testimony serve as a basis for appellants conviction? As an
exception to the general rule on the requirement of corroboration of the testimony of an accomplice or co-conspiratorturned state witness, her testimony may, even if uncorroborated, be sufficient as when it is shown to be sincere in
itself because it is given unhesitatingly and in a straightforward manner and full of details which, by their nature, could
not have been the result of deliberate afterthought.89 An exhaustive review of the transcript of stenographic notes of
Locils testimony reveals, however, that the manner by which she related it was punctuated with marks
of tentativeness, uncertainty and indecisiveness which the trial court unfortunately failed to take note of in its decision
on review.
Consider the following portions of her testimony, quoted verbatim:
COURT:
Q

Do you know the name of the woman who died?

Jocelyn Tan

ATTY. GACOTT [Private Prosecutor]:


Maybe we can use the sound system.
ATTY. GACOTT:
Q:

Miss Witness, you said that you are fourteen years old. How come that you are 14 years old?

A:

(Witness handing a document to counsel.)

(To the Court:)


Your Honor, the witness handed to me a birth certificate.
ATTY. CRUZAT (Defense Counsel):
over certain documents.
COURT:

We are requesting for the witness to speak loud and not merely hand

Instruct the witness to speak louder. (Emphasis supplied.)90


xxx

ATTY. GACOTT Q:

Miss Witness, how many times did you attain your Grade I schooling?

A:

Three times.

Q:

What about your Grade II schooling?

A:

Two years.

Q:

How about your Grade III schooling?

A:

One year.

ATTY. CRUZAT: I am already tired of requesting this Honorable Court to instruct the witness to speak
quite louder. She is just whispering to the interpreter.
You speak louder (Emphasis supplied.)91

COURT:

xxx
ATTY. GACOTT Q:

Now, Miss Witness, where were you last June 29, 1994 at around 2:00 oclock in the afternoon?

A:

In Mendoza.

COURT Q:

What is that Mendoza?

A:

Mendoza Park.

ATTY. GACOTT Q:

During that date, do you remember any unusual thing that happened to you?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

Could you please relate to this Honorable Court what happened during that date?

A:

Yes, sir.

ATTY. CRUZAT: I may be compelled to ask this Honorable Court for a coercive authority to declare her in
contempt for repeatedly disobeying the instruction of the Court for her to speak louder.
COURT:

You speak louder, otherwise you will be cited in contempt of court.

WITNESS:

Yes, Your Honor.92

xxx
ATTY. GACOTT Q:
You mean to say, Miss Witness, that this Tomboy that you are referring to went upstairs of Mendoza
Park, and once there she talked to the woman sitting there?
A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

Do you know the name of that woman?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

After getting near to that woman, what did they do after that?

A:

They talked, sir.

Q:

Then what happened next?

ATTY. CRUZAT:
COURT:

This woman does not speak quite loud, Your Honor.

You talk louder (Emphasis supplied.)93


xxx

A scrutiny of her testimony likewise reveals a strain of improbability ingrained therein. To recapitulate, Locil claimed
that on June 29, 1994 she boarded a tricycle bearing a lesbian who invited her for a joyride, proceeded to the
Mendoza Park and picked up Jocelyn, whom she was not acquainted with, then brought by the same tricycle to
Irawan where the latter was raped and brutally murdered. In other words, she wanted to convey that she was
deliberately brought by appellants with them on June 29, 1994 to the place where they were to carry out, which they
did, their abominable acts against Jocelyn. This strikes this Court as improbable if not bizarre. For it is contrary to
human nature and experience for those who undertake the commission of a crime to bring a spectator thereof. A
criminal would certainly take steps to evade detection or discovery of his criminal act, to keep it from being witnessed
or known by others who might later turn against him. Yet, from Locils testimony, appellants took the trouble of
bringing her to the locus criminis so she could bear witness to a horrible crime which appellants carried out with
evident secrecy in a remote, uninhabited place in Puerto Princesa City.
That appellants required Locils presence at the time and place of the crime only to threaten her later against
divulging what she had witnessed thus defies comprehension.
Evidence to be believed should not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but should also be credible in
itself such as the common experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the
circumstances.94
This Court is not in fact prepared to accord Locil credibly as a witness. Who can trust one who, in her early teens,
gets pregnant, flees home and stays in a boarding house albeit she has no visible means of income to pay therefor,
and carries an alias name to evade being traced by her mother and aunt?
Locils testimony on how appellants put her in a position to have direct knowledge of their malevolent acts despite
taking measures to conceal their deeds fails to inspire belief and must, therefore, be discredited.
A serious question too abounds on Locils identification of appellant Pascua as one of those who raped Jocelyn. She
described Pascua, the man who according to her raped the victim after appellants Lansang and Sunga did, as
having, among other things, singkit (chinky) eyes. But as Pascua did not have singkit eyes, even the trial court was
prompted to ask her if she was sure that the third person who raped Jocelyn had singkit eyes.95 Thus, with the courts
approval, the defense made it of record that Pascua did not have chinky eyes, contrary to Locils description of him.96
The aforementioned observations pertaining to both the weak, incomprehensible voice with which Locil gave her
testimony, the improbability with which she was precisely made by appellants to be a witness to their crime, and the
failure of her description of Pascuas eyes to match the latters actual physical feature cannot but engender serious
doubts as to the reliability of her testimony against all appellants. This Court thus finds her uncorroborated account to
have failed the jurisprudentially established touchstone for its credibility and sufficiency, that of straightforwardness
and deliberateness, as evidence to warrant appellants conviction.
In light of the weak evidence for the prosecution, the defense of alibi as well as of denial by appellants is accorded
credence, for it is precisely when the prosecutions case is weak that the defense of alibi assumes importance and
becomes crucial in negating criminal liability.97 It bears noting that the alibi proffered by appellants, especially that by
Lansang, had been corroborated.
In fine, regardless of the probative weight of appellants alibi, the prosecution still has the onus of proving the guilt
beyond reasonable doubt of the accused and cannot rely on the weakness of the defense evidence. The prosecution
having failed to discharge its burden, appellants presumed innocence remains and must thus be acquitted.

WHEREFORE, for failure of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of appellants Rey Sunga,
Ramil Lansang and Inocencio Pascua in Criminal Case No. 11984 the decision therein is hereby SET ASIDE and
REVERSED and said appellants are hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged.
The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to cause the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of the appellants from
custody, unless they are being held for some other lawful cause, and to INFORM this Court within five (5) days from
receipt of this Decision of the date appellants were actually released from confinement.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 131377

February 11, 2003

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
HONORABLE NAZAR U. CHAVES, Judge, RTC-Cagayan de Oro City, Br. 18 and MIGUEL P.
PADERANGA,respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review of the decision dated November 7, 1997 of the Court of Appeals,1 which dismissed the
petition for certiorari assailing the Orders dated June 3, 1993; July 15, 1993; and September 23, 1993 of the Regional
Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 18 in Criminal Case No. 86-39.
Sometime in October 1986, Informations for Multiple Murder for the killing of members of the Bucag family in Gingoog
City were filed against Felipe Galarion, Manuel Sabit, Cesar Sabit, Julito Ampo, Eddie Torion, John Doe, Peter Doe
and Richard Doe, with the Regional Trial Court of Gingoog City.2 Venue of the case was moved to Cagayan de Oro
City by virtue of Administrative Order No. 87-2-244. Thus, Criminal Case No. 86-39 was transferred to the Regional
Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 18, presided by respondent Judge Nazar U. Chaves.
Only Felipe Galarion was tried and convicted. All the other accused were at large.
Two years later, in October 1988, Felizardo Roxas, also known as "Ely Roxas", "Fely Roxas" and "Lolong Roxas,"
was identified as another member of the group who was responsible for the slaying of the Bucag family. An amended
information was filed on October 6, 1988 to implead Roxas as a co-accused. He engaged the services of private
respondent Miguel Paderanga as his counsel. In order to give Roxas the opportunity to adduce evidence in support of
his defense, a preliminary investigation was conducted. In his counter-affidavit, Roxas implicated Atty. Paderanga as
the mastermind of the killings. Consequently, the amended information was again amended to include private
respondent Paderanga as one of the accused in Criminal Case No. 86-39.
Trial of the case ensued. At the hearing on May 18, 1993, the prosecution called Felizardo Roxas as its first witness.
Private respondent objected to the presentation of Roxas testimony. The trial court took the matter under
advisement. The following day, May 19, 1993, it sustained private respondents objection on the ground that the
presentation of Roxas testimony will violate his right against self-incrimination. The trial court ruled further that before
Roxas can be presented as a witness for the prosecution, he must first be discharged as a state witness. Otherwise
put, the prosecution cannot present Roxas as a hostile witness.
The prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, to discharge Roxas as a state witness. It also
manifested its intention to present Julito Ampo as another state witness or ordinary prosecution witness.

On June 3, 1993, the trial court issued an Order denying the prosecutions motion for reconsideration but setting the
motion for the discharge of Roxas as state witness for hearing, to wit:
The Court believes that it has amply heard the matter at bar referring to whether the Order of 19 May 1993 on the
contention, perception and interpretation of what the prosecution refers to as "hostile witness." After both sides or
both panels for that matter extensively argued their respective sides, it is the considered view of the Court,
considering all points raised by both sides, that the ruling of the Court should stand and is in fact reiterated with
particular reference on the matter on hostile witness. However, with respect to the alternative prayer in the Omnibus
Motion for reconsideration, the Court would like to be satisfied as to which contending side is correct on the issue
whether the proposed witness-accused Felizardo "Ely" Roxas would satisfy the requirements embodied in Section 9,
Rule 119, regarding a proposed state witness.31a\^/phi1.net
On June 29, 1993, the trial court issued an Order4 allowing the presentation of the testimony of Felizardo Roxas for
purposes of proving the conditions of Rule 119, Section 9 of the Rules of Court on the discharge of a state
witness.5 Private respondent interposed an objection, which the trial court overruled. The next day, June 30, 1993, he
filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the presentation of Roxas testimony will be tantamount to allowing
him to testify as a state witness even before his discharge as such; that the qualification of a proposed state witness
must be proved by evidence other than his own testimony; and that at the hearing for the discharge of a proposed
state witness, only his sworn statement can be presented and not his oral testimony.
On July 15, 1993, the trial court issued an Omnibus Order granting private respondents motion for reconsideration,
thus:
xxx xxx xxx, it is the considered view of this Court that, at this stage and insofar as the proposed state witness is
concerned, only his sworn statement may be admitted and considered by the Court. The "evidence" contemplated in
the above-quoted last portion of the first paragraph of Rule 119, Sec. 9, is any evidence other than his testimony.
Precisely, the rule speaks of "and the sworn statement of such proposed state witness," thus categorizing and
removing such statement from the other kind or class of evidence mentioned therein. (underscoring copied)
xxx xxx xxx.
PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court is left with no other legally plausible alternative but to grant the subject Motion
for Reconsideration of accused Miguel Paderanga filed on 30 June 1993. The questioned Order issued on 29 June
1993 is hereby reconsidered and/or set aside, without prejudice to the prosecutions presenting any other evidence in
support of the discharge.
On the other Motion for Reconsideration simultaneously filed by the prosecution, it appearing that the same does not
point to or specify any particular Order on record that has to be reconsidered, no ruling or action thereon is
necessary. Whatever matters that have been treated therein are deemed resolved hereinabove.
Considering the manifestation of the prosecution to the effect that it is adopting the same move and stand with
respect to the proposed discharge of accused Julito Ampo, the ruling herein made likewise applies to accused Ampo.6
On August 9, 1993, the prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration. In an Order dated September 23, 1993, the
trial court denied the motion for lack of merit.7
On November 17, 1993, the prosecution, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a petition for certiorari,
prohibition and mandamus with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 32616, assailing the trial courts
Orders of June 3, 1993; July 15, 1993; and September 23, 1993.
On November 7, 1997, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack of merit.8 Hence, this petition for review
raising the following issues:
I. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CHALLENGED
ORDER OF THE TRIAL COURT DATED 3 JUNE 1993 (WHICH DENIED PROSECUTIONS MOTION FOR

FELIZARDO "ELY" ROXAS TO BE PRESENTED AS AN ORDINARY WITNESS) HAS ALREADY BECOME FINAL
SINCE NO APPEAL HAS BEEN PERFECTED WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD, BY LOOSELY CITING THE
CASE OF AMARANTE v. COURT OF APPEALS, 232 SCRA 104.
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN LIMITING THE EVIDENCE THAT NEEDS
TO BE PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION IN ITS MOTION TO DISCHARGE TO THE RESPECTIVE SWORN
STATEMENT EXECUTED BY ITS PROPOSED WITNESSES AND IN UPHOLDING THE TRIAL COURTS DENIAL
OF THE PRESENTATION OF OTHER EVIDENCE.9
The Court of Appeals, in passing upon the issue of whether or not the prosecution may present the testimony of
Felizardo Roxas as a hostile witness, held that the trial courts Order of June 3, 1993 disallowing the said
presentation had already become final due to the prosecutions failure to appeal the same. This is error. Clearly, the
Order dated June 3, 1993 was interlocutory; it did not finally dispose of the case on its merits. As such, the Order
cannot be the proper subject of appeal. It may, however, be assailed in a special civil action for certiorari. Under the
Rules of Court then governing, the petition for certiorari may be filed within a reasonable period.10
While there is no showing in the record that the prosecution moved for a reconsideration of the June 3, 1993 Order, it
nevertheless appears that it filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Omnibus Order dated July 15, 1993, wherein it
raised the matter of presenting Roxas as an ordinary witness, as distinguished from a state witness.11 This Motion
was denied by the trial court on September 23, 1993. Thereafter, on November 17, 1993, the prosecution instituted a
petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus before the Court of Appeals. The petition, clearly, was filed well
within the reasonable period contemplated by the Rules. It was even filed within sixty days, the reglementary period
prescribed in the present 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
The prosecution, petitioner herein, also argues that Ely Roxas and Julito Ampo have voluntarily expressed their
consent to testify as prosecution witnesses. Hence, there is no need to first discharge them as state witnesses before
they can be presented on the stand.
The petition has merit. It is true that an accused cannot be made a hostile witness for the prosecution, for to do so
would compel him to be a witness against himself. However, he may testify against a co-defendant where he has
agreed to do so, with full knowledge of his right and the consequences of his acts.12 It is not necessary that the court
discharges him first as state witness. There is nothing in the rules that says so. There is a difference between
testifying as state witness and testifying as a co-accused. In the first, the proposed state witness has to qualify as a
witness for the state, after which he is discharged as an accused and exempted from prosecution.13In the second, the
witness remains an accused and can be made liable should he be found guilty of the criminal offense.
However, we cannot simply rely on petitioners representation that Roxas and Ampo have volunteered to testify for
the prosecution. This is a matter that the trial court must determine with certainty, lest their right against selfincrimination be violated.
Petitioner also maintains that it can validly present the testimony of Ely Roxas and Julito Ampo at the hearing for their
discharge as state witnesses. We agree. Rule 119, Section 17 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (formerly
Rule 119, Section 9), provides that the trial court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their
consent so that they may be witnesses for the state "after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the
sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge" (underscoring ours). The
provision does not make any distinction as to the kind of evidence the prosecution may present. What it simply
requires, in addition to the presentation of the sworn statement of the accused concerned, is the presentation of such
evidence as are necessary to determine if the conditions exist for the discharge, so as to meet the object of the law,
which is to prevent unnecessary or arbitrary exclusion from the complaint of persons guilty of the crime charged.14 No
exemption from the term evidence is provided by the law as to exclude the testimony of the accused. When the law
does not distinguish, we should not distinguish.15
There is no other evidence more competent than the testimony of the proposed witness himself to prove the
conditions that his testimony is absolutely necessary in the case; that there is no other direct evidence available for
the proper prosecution of the offense; that his testimony can be corroborated in its material points; that he does not
appear to be the most guilty; and that he has not been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude. Further, the

trial judge will not be able to clarify matters found in the sworn statements of the proposed witnesses if they are not
allowed to testify.
Private respondent counters Roxas and Ampo cannot be allowed to testify because their testimony will effectively
constitute an admission by a conspirator which, under Rule 130, Section 30 of the Rules of Court,16 is inadmissible as
evidence against a co-conspirator until the conspiracy is established by evidence other than said declaration. In this
regard, suffice it to state that private respondent can interpose the proper objection during the direct examination of
these witnesses, when the prosecution propounds questions which may touch on the matter of conspiracy. Indeed, it
is still premature for private respondent to raise this objection in the instant petition.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals
dated November 7, 1997 is REVERSED. The Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, in Criminal Case No. 8639, is directed to determine the voluntariness of Felizardo Roxas and Julito Ampos decision to testify as prosecution
witnesses and, thereafter, to allow the prosecution to present said witnesses. In the alternative, the trial court is
directed to allow Felizardo Roxas and Julito Ampo to testify at the hearing on the motion for their discharge as state
witnesses.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 185527

July 18, 2012

HARRY L. GO, TONNY NGO, JERRY NGO AND JANE GO, Petitioners,
vs.
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and HIGHDONE COMPANY, LTD., ET AL., Respondents.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
The procedure for taking depositions in criminal cases recognizes the prosecution's right to preserve testimonial
evidence and prove its case despite the unavailability of its witness. It cannot, however, give license to prosecutorial
indifference or unseemly involvement in a prosecution witness' absence from trial. To rule otherwise would effectively
deprive the accused of his fundamental right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.
In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioners seek to nullify and
set aside the February 19, 2008 Decision1 and November 28, 2008 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CAG.R. SP No. 99383, which reversed the September 12, 2006 Order3 issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Manila, Branch 27 in Civil Case No. 06-114844 and upheld the grant of the prosecutions motion to take the testimony
of a witness by oral depositions in Laos, Cambodia.
Petitioners Harry Go, Tonny Ngo, Jerry Ngo and Jane Go were charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of
Manila for Other Deceits under Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) docketed as Criminal Case No. 396447.
The Information4 dated September 24, 2003, later amended5 on September 14, 2004, reads:
"That sometime in August 1996, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring, confederating
together and helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud Highdone Company
Ltd. Represented by Li Luen Ping, in the following manner, to wit: all said accused, by means of false manifestations
and fraudulent representations which they made to said Li Luen Ping to the effect that they have chattels such as
machinery, spare parts, equipment and raw materials installed and fixed in the premises of BGB Industrial Textile
Mills Factory located in the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) in Mariveles, Bataan, executed a Deed of
Mortgage for a consideration of the amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 more or less in
favor of ML Resources and Highdone Company Ltd. Representing that the said deed is a FIRST MORTGAGE when
in truth and in fact the accused well knew that the same had been previously encumbered, mortgaged and foreclosed
by CHINA BANK CORPORATION as early as September 1994 thereby causing damage and prejudice to said

HIGHDONE COMPANY LTD., in the said amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 more or
less."
Upon arraignment, petitioners pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The prosecution's complaining witness, Li Luen Ping, a frail old businessman from Laos, Cambodia, traveled from his
home country back to the Philippines in order to attend the hearing held on September 9, 2004. However, trial dates
were subsequently postponed due to his unavailability.
On October 13, 2005, the private prosecutor filed with the MeTC a Motion to Take Oral Deposition6 of Li Luen Ping,
alleging that he was being treated for lung infection at the Cambodia Charity Hospital in Laos, Cambodia and that,
upon doctor's advice, he could not make the long travel to the Philippines by reason of ill health.
Notwithstanding petitioners' Opposition,7 the MeTC granted8 the motion after the prosecution complied with the
directive to submit a Medical Certificate of Li Luen Ping. Petitioners sought its reconsideration which the MeTC
denied,9 prompting petitioners to file a Petition for Certiorari10 before the RTC.
On September 12, 2006, the RTC granted the petition and declared the MeTC Orders null and void.11 The RTC held
that Section 17, Rule 23 on the taking of depositions of witnesses in civil cases cannot apply suppletorily to the case
since there is a specific provision in the Rules of Court with respect to the taking of depositions of prosecution
witnesses in criminal cases, which is primarily intended to safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused to meet
the witness against him face to face.
Upon denial by the RTC of their motion for reconsideration through an Order dated March 5, 2006,12 the prosecution
elevated the case to the CA.
On February 19, 2008, the CA promulgated the assailed Decision which held that no grave abuse of discretion can be
imputed upon the MeTC for allowing the deposition-taking of the complaining witness Li Luen Ping because no rule of
procedure expressly disallows the taking of depositions in criminal cases and that, in any case, petitioners would still
have every opportunity to cross-examine the complaining witness and make timely objections during the taking of the
oral deposition either through counsel or through the consular officer who would be taking the deposition of the
witness.
On November 28, 2008, the CA denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition alleging that
I.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT
INFRINGED THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO A PUBLIC TRIAL IN ALLOWING
THE TAKING OF THE DEPOSITION OF THE COMPLAINING WITNESS IN LAOS, CAMBODIA.
II.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE DEPOSITION TAKING OF THE
COMPLAINING WITNESS IN LAOS, CAMBODIA IS AN INFRINGEMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL
RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO CONFRONT THE SAID WITNESS FACE TO FACE.
III.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE JUDICIAL LEGISLATION COMMITTED BY
THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT IN APPLYING THE RULES ON DEPOSITION-TAKING IN CIVIL
CASES TO CRIMINAL CASES.
IV.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN LIMITING THE TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF GRAVE ABUSE
OF DISCRETION, OVERLOOKING THE ESTABLISHED RULE THAT VIOLATION OF THE
CONSTITUTION, THE LAW OR JURISPRUDENCE SIMILARLY COMES WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF
GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.
We rule in favor of petitioners.

The Procedure for Testimonial Examination of an Unavailable Prosecution Witness is Covered Under Section 15,
Rule 119.
The examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court.13 This is true especially in criminal
cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a public trial and to meet the witnessess against him
face to face. The requirement is the "safest and most satisfactory method of investigating facts" as it enables the
judge to test the witness' credibility through his manner and deportment while testifying.14 It is not without exceptions,
however, as the Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions
as testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony.
Even in criminal proceedings, there is no doubt as to the availability of conditional examination of witnesses both for
the benefit of the defense, as well as the prosecution. The Court's ruling in the case of Vda. de Manguerra v.
Risos15 explicitly states that
"x x x As exceptions, Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court provide for the different modes of discovery that may be
resorted to by a party to an action. These rules are adopted either to perpetuate the testimonies of witnesses or as
modes of discovery. In criminal proceedings, Sections 12, 13 and 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, allow the conditional examination of both the defense and
prosecution witnesses." (Underscoring supplied)16
The procedure under Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court allows the taking of depositions in civil cases, either upon
oral examination or written interrogatories, before any judge, notary public or person authorized to administer oaths at
any time or place within the Philippines; or before any
Philippine consular official, commissioned officer or person authorized to administer oaths in a foreign state or
country, with no additional requirement except reasonable notice in writing to the other party.17
But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness who would
forseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before the court, or at least before the
judge, where the case is pending as required by the clear mandate of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure. The pertinent provision reads thus:
SEC. 15. Examination of witness for the prosecution. When it satisfactorily appears that a witness for the
prosecution is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial as directed by the court, or has to leave the Philippines with no
definite date of returning, he may forthwith be conditionally examined before the court where the case is pending.
Such examination, in the presence of the accused, or in his absence after reasonable notice to attend the
examination has been served on him shall be conducted in the same manner as an examination at the trial. Failure or
refusal of the accused to attend the examination after notice shall be considered a waiver. The statement taken may
be admitted in behalf of or against the accused.
Since the conditional examination of a prosecution witness must take place at no other place than the court where the
case is pending, the RTC properly nullified the MeTC's orders granting the motion to take the deposition of Li Luen
Ping before the Philippine consular official in Laos, Cambodia. We quote with approval the RTC's ratiocination in this
wise:
The condition of the private complainant being sick and of advanced age falls within the provision of Section 15 Rule
119 of the Rules of Court. However, said rule substantially provides that he should be conditionally examined before
the court where the case is pending. Thus, this Court concludes that the language of Section 15 Rule 119 must be
interpreted to require the parties to present testimony at the hearing through live witnesses, whose demeanor and
credibility can be evaluated by the judge presiding at the hearing, rather than by means of deposition. No where in
the said rule permits the taking of deposition outside the Philippines whether the deponent is sick or
not.18 (Underscoring supplied)
Certainly, to take the deposition of the prosecution witness elsewhere and not before the very same court where the
case is pending would not only deprive a detained accused of his right to attend the proceedings but also deprive the

trial judge of the opportunity to observe the prosecution witness' deportment and properly assess his credibility, which
is especially intolerable when the witness' testimony is crucial to the prosecution's case against the accused. This is
the import of the Court's ruling in Vda. de Manguerra19 where we further declared that
While we recognize the prosecution's right to preserve the testimony of its witness in order to prove its case, we
cannot disregard the rules which are designed mainly for the protection of the accused's constitutional rights. The
giving of testimony during trial is the general rule. The conditional examination of a witness outside of the trial is only
an exception, and as such, calls for a strict construction of the rules.20 (Underscoring supplied)
It is argued that since the Rules of Civil Procedure is made explicitly applicable in all cases, both civil and criminal as
well as special proceedings, the deposition-taking before a Philippine consular official under Rule 23 should be
deemed allowable also under the circumstances.
However, the suggested suppletory application of Rule 23 in the testimonial examination of an unavailable
prosecution witness has been categorically ruled out by the Court in the same case of Vda. de Manguerra, as follows:
It is true that Section 3, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules of civil procedure apply to all actions, civil
or criminal, and special proceedings. In effect, it says that the rules of civil procedure have suppletory application to
criminal cases. However, it is likewise true that criminal proceedings are primarily governed by the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure.
Considering that Rule 119 adequately and squarely covers the situation in the instant case, we find no cogent reason
to apply Rule 23 suppletorily or otherwise." (Underscoring supplied)
The Conditional Examination of a Prosecution Witness Cannot Defeat the Rights of the Accused to Public Trial and
Confrontation of Witnesses
The CA took a simplistic view on the use of depositions in criminal cases and overlooked fundamental considerations
no less than the Constitution secures to the accused, i.e., the right to a public trial and the right to confrontation of
witnesses. Section 14(2), Article III of the
Constitution provides as follows:
Section 14. (1) x x x
(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy
the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to
have a speedy, impartial and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to
secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial
may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to
appear is unjustifiable. (Underscoring supplied)
In dismissing petitioners' apprehensions concerning the deprivation of their constitutional rights to a public trial and
confrontation, the CA opined that petitioners would still be accorded the right to cross-examine the deponent witness
and raise their objections during the deposition-taking in the same manner as in a regular court trial.
We disagree. There is a great deal of difference between the face-to- face confrontation in a public criminal trial in the
presence of the presiding judge and the cross-examination of a witness in a foreign place outside the courtroom in
the absence of a trial judge. In the aptly cited case of People v. Estenzo,21 the Court noted the uniqueness and
significance of a witness testifying in open court, thus:
"The main and essential purpose of requiring a witness to appear and testify orally at a trial is to secure for the
adverse party the opportunity of cross-examination. "The opponent", according to an eminent authority, "demands
confrontation, not for the idle purpose of gazing upon the witness, or of being gazed upon by him, but for the purpose

of cross examination which cannot be had except by the direct and personal putting of questions and obtaining
immediate answers." There is also the advantage of the witness before the judge, and it is this it enables the judge
as trier of facts "to obtain the elusive and incommunicable evidence of a witness' deportment while testifying, and a
certain subjective moral effect is produced upon the witness. It is only when the witness testifies orally that the judge
may have a true idea of his countenance, manner and expression, which may confirm or detract from the weight of
his testimony. Certainly, the physical condition of the witness will reveal his capacity for accurate observation and
memory, and his deportment and physiognomy will reveal clues to his character. These can only be observed by the
judge if the witness testifies orally in court. x x x"22 (Underscoring supplied)1wphi1
The right of confrontation, on the other hand, is held to apply specifically to criminal proceedings and to have a
twofold purpose: (1) to afford the accused an opportunity to test the testimony of witnesses by cross-examination,
and (2) to allow the judge to observe the deportment of witnesses.23 The Court explained in People v. Seneris24that
the constitutional requirement "insures that the witness will give his testimony under oath, thus deterring lying by the
threat of perjury charge; it forces the witness to submit to cross-examination, a valuable instrument in exposing
falsehood and bringing out the truth; and it enables the court to observe the demeanor of the witness and assess his
credibility."25
As the right of confrontation is intended "to secure the accused in the right to be tried as far as facts provable by
witnesses as meet him face to face at the trial who give their testimony in his presence, and give to the accused an
opportunity of cross-examination,"26 it is properly viewed as a guarantee against the use of unreliable testimony in
criminal trials. In the American case of Crawford v. Washington,27 the US Supreme Court had expounded on the
procedural intent of the confrontation requirement, thus:
Where testimonial statements are involved, we do not think the Framers meant to leave the Sixth Amendment's right
to confront witness face to face protection to the vagaries of the rules of evidence, much less to amorphous notions of
"reliability". Certainly, none of the authorities discussed above acknowledges any general reliability exception to the
common-law rule.
Admitting statements deemed reliable by a judge is fundamentally at odds with the right of confrontation. To be sure,
the Clause's ultimate goal is to ensure reliability of evidence, but it is a procedural rather than a substantive
guarantee. It commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by
testing in the crucible of cross-examination. The Clause thus reflects a judgment, not only about the desirability of
reliable evidence (a point on which there could be little dissent), but about how reliability can best be determined."
(Underscoring supplied)
The Webb Ruling is Not on All Fours with the Instant Case
The CA found the frail and infirm condition of the prosecution witness as sufficient and compelling reason to uphold
the MeTC Orders granting the deposition-taking, following the ruling in the case of People v. Webb28 that the taking of
an unavailable witness' deposition is in the nature of a discovery procedure the use of which is within the trial court's
sound discretion which needs only to be exercised in a reasonable manner and in consonance with the spirit of the
law.29
But the ruling in the cited case is not instantly applicable herein as the factual settings are not similar.1wphi1 The
accused in the Webb case had sought to take the oral deposition of five defense witnesses before a Philippine
consular agent in lieu of presenting them as live witnesses, alleging that they were all residents of the United States
who could not be compelled by subpoena to testify in court. The trial court denied the motion of the accused but the
CA differed and ordered the deposition taken. When the matter was raised before this Court, we sustained the trial
court's disallowance of the deposition-taking on the limited ground that there was no necessity for the procedure as
the matter sought to be proved by way of deposition was considered merely corroborative of the evidence for the
defense.30
In this case, where it is the prosecution that seeks to depose the complaining witness against the accused, the
stringent procedure under Section 15, Rule 119 cannot be ignored without violating the constitutional rights of the
accused to due process.

Finally, the Court takes note that prosecution witness Li Luen Ping had managed to attend the initial trial proceedings
before the MeTC of Manila on September 9, 2004. At that time, Li Luen Ping's old age and fragile constitution should
have been unmistakably apparent and yet the prosecution failed to act with zeal and foresight in having his deposition
or testimony taken before the MeTC pursuant to Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court. In fact, it should
have been imperative for the prosecution to have moved for the preservation of Li Luen Ping's testimony at that first
instance given the fact that the witness is a non-resident alien who can leave the Philippines anytime without any
definite date of return. Obviously, the prosecution allowed its main witness to leave the court's jurisdiction without
availing of the court procedure intended to preserve the testimony of such witness. The loss of its cause is
attributable to no other party.
Still, even after failing to secure Li Luen Ping's conditional examination before the MeTC prior to said witness'
becoming sick and unavailable, the prosecution would capitalize upon its own failure by pleading for a liberal
application of the rules on depositions. It must be emphasized that while the prosecution must provide the accused
every opportunity to take the deposition of witnesses that are material to his defense in order to avoid charges of
violating the right of the accused to compulsory process, the State itself must resort to deposition-taking sparingly if it
is to guard against accusations of violating the right of the accused to meet the witnesses against him face to face.
Great care must be observed in the taking and use of depositions of prosecution witnesses to the end that no
conviction of an accused will rely on ex parte affidavits and deposition.31
Thus, the CA ignored the procedure under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for taking the deposition of an
unavailable prosecution witness when it upheld the trial court's order allowing the deposition of prosecution witness Li
Luen Ping to take place in a venue other than the court where the case is pending. This was certainly grave abuse of
discretion.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated February 19, 2008 and the Resolution
dated November 28, 2008 of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the Decision of the
Regional Trial Court which disallowed the deposition-taking in Laos, Cambodia is REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 161330

February 20, 2007

RENE CABARLES, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. JUDGE BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:
In an original action filed under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioner Rene Cabarles seeks to annul
the Order1 issued by respondent Judge Bonifacio Sanz Maceda in Criminal Case No. 99-0878, entitled People of the
Philippines v. Rene "Nonoy" Cabarles y Adizas, for murder, filed with the Regional Trial Court of Las Pias City,
Branch 275. The questioned Order dated April 1, 2003 cancelled the scheduled promulgation of judgment and
reopened the case for reception of evidence from two prosecution witnesses who were not presented during trial.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On June 18, 1999, Cabarles was charged with murder under the following information:
The undersigned Prosecutor II accuses RENE "NONOY" CABARLES Y ADIZAS of the crime of Murder, committed as
follows:

That on or about the 25th day of April, 1999, in the City of Las Pias, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without justifiable motive with intent to kill and by means of treachery
and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and stab with a
deadly weapon (fan knife) one Antonio Callosa, which directly caused his death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
Cabarles pleaded not guilty. The trial court scheduled the case for hearing on the following dates, to wit: pre-trial on
November 22, 2000; presentation of prosecutions evidence on April 18, May 4, 11, 18, and 23, 2001; and
presentation of defense evidence on June 20 and 27, July 4 and 18, and August 1, 2001.3
The prosecution had subpoenas issued to its witnesses: Flocerfina Callosa, the mother of the deceased; Imelda
Pedrosa, the alleged eyewitness; Carlos Callosa, brother of the deceased; and Dr. Romeo T. Salen, Police Senior
Inspector of the Southern Police District (SPD) Crime Laboratory to testify on the contents of the death certificate of
Antonio Callosa.
Through no fault of its own, the prosecution was unable to present its evidence on the first four hearing dates.
Instead, trial on the merits began only on May 23, 2001 when the prosecution called Carlos Callosa to the witness
stand. Since defense counsel agreed to stipulate that Carlos would testify on matters in his May 13, 1999
Sinumpaang Salaysay, his testimony was dispensed with.
The second prosecution witness, Police Inspector Prudencio Parejos, was presented in court during the June 20,
2001 hearing. His testimony was likewise dispensed with after defense counsel agreed to stipulate that Police
Inspector Parejos would testify on what was in the spot report of the stabbing incident. In the June 20, 2001 hearing,
the prosecution said it would offer its evidence and rest its case should the People fail to present a witness at the next
scheduled hearing.4
When the case was called on June 27, 2001, the prosecution failed to present a witness. Neither Pedrosa nor Dr.
Salen appeared during the said hearing. Records show that four subpoenas were issued to Pedrosa informing her
that she had to appear on November 22, 2000,5 April 116 and 18,7 May 11 and June 20,8 and August 1, 2001.9 The
first subpoena was personally received by her; the second subpoena by her husband, Salvador Pedrosa; and the
third and fourth subpoenas had no proofs of service. Meanwhile, the three subpoenas issued to Dr. Salen requiring
his attendance on May 1110 and 23,11 June 20,12 and August 1, 2001,13 were all returned with the notation "addressee
moved." There was no evidence, however, that subpoenas were issued to these two witnesses requiring their
attendance for the June 27, 2001 hearing, which would explain why they were absent. Taking into consideration the
absence of a subpoena issued to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen and notwithstanding the vehement objection registered by
Cabarles, Judge Maceda gave the prosecution a last chance but warned:
It is however understood whether the subpoena is actually issued and served or not upon the prosecution
witnesses and service of such subpoena or notice will not relieved (sic) the prosecution to make a formal offer of
evidence should the prosecution failed (sic) to present any witness in the next scheduled hearing.14
With no witness for the August 1, 2001 hearing, the prosecution rested its case and formally offered its evidence.15
Thereafter, Cabarles, with leave of court, filed a demurrer to evidence but it was denied by Judge Maceda.16 Two
witnesses were called for the defense, accused Cabarles and Luisito Javier, a fisherman.
A day before the scheduled promulgation of judgment on April 2, 2003, Judge Maceda motu proprio issued the
questioned order reopening the case. In it, he observed that the prosecution may not have been given its day in court
resulting in a miscarriage of justice. He explained that because there was a mix-up in the dates specified in the
subpoena and the hearing dates of when the case was actually heard, the prosecution was unable to present its
evidence on the first four of the five hearing dates: April 18, May 4, 11 and 18, 2001 assigned to it. Judge Maceda
found that there was no hearing conducted on April 18, 2001. Thereafter, the subpoena issued to Pedrosa required
her to appear on April 11, 2001, which was not a date assigned for the prosecution but May 11, 2001. Also, Judge
Maceda noted that another subpoena was issued to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen requiring them to appear on May 11 and

June 20, 2001. But, the May 11, 2001 hearing was reset to May 25, 2001 because the judge was indisposed, and
insofar as the June 20, 2001 setting was concerned, it was not one of the days set by the court for the prosecution.
Judge Maceda further observed that the May 18, 2001 hearing was never scheduled and May 25, 2001 was likewise
not a hearing date set by the court. According to Judge Maceda, since the prosecution was not able to present its
evidence on the first four hearing dates and there was either no return on the subpoenas subsequently issued or
there was no subpoena issued at all to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen, the prosecution should have been given a last chance
to present the alleged eyewitness and the doctor. His order in part read:
As a consequence[,] the promulgation set tomorrow, April 2, is canceled. Set the reception of the testimony of the
eye witness and the doctor on May 1, 2003 at 2:00 [p.]m. to enable the prosecution to avail [of] the last chance
granted by this Court.
Issue the corresponding subpoena to Imelda Pedrosa and Dr. Romeo T. Salen directing them to appear on the
aforesaid date and time, to be served by the Branch Sheriff who is required to make a prompt return thereof.
SO ORDERED.17
Judge Maceda denied Cabarless motion for reconsideration in an Order dated April 25, 2003 and set the case for
hearing on May 8, 2003 to hear the testimonies of Pedrosa and Dr. Salen. The subpoena issued to Pedrosa for that
hearing was duly served,18 but service upon Dr. Salen failed since the doctor was no longer assigned to the SPD
Crime Laboratory. Notwithstanding the service upon Pedrosa, the prosecution still failed to present a witness during
the May 8, 2003 hearing. Nonetheless, Judge Maceda, upon motion, again decided to extend to the prosecution
another chance, giving the People June 19 and July 3, 2003 as additional hearing dates.19
Finally, on June 19, 2003, Pedrosa took the witness stand and completed her direct examination. A few days
thereafter, Cabarles filed the present petition questioning Judge Macedas order, alleging that it was issued with grave
abuse of discretion. Since trial in the lower court continued, on July 3, 2003, the Public Attorneys Office conducted its
cross-examination of Pedrosa.
On July 24, 2003, the defense counsel agreed on the facts contained in the death certificate of the victim, so the
testimony of Dr. Salen was dispensed with. Thereafter, Judge Maceda set the date for the reception of evidence on
the civil aspect of the criminal case on August 14, 2003, when Carlos, the deceaseds brother, was recalled to the
witness stand.20
Cabarles was then given a chance to adduce further evidence on his behalf.1avvphi1.net
On August 9, 2004, Judge Maceda deferred the promulgation of judgment and ordered the case archived pending
this Courts resolution of the case.21
In his petition, Cabarles raises as issues the following:
[1] WHETHER THE RESPONDENT HONORABLE JUDGE GRAVELY ABUSED HIS DISCRETION WHEN
HE ISSUED THE QUESTIONED ORDER DESPITE THE ABSENCE OF A FINAL JUDGMENT OF
CONVICTION.
[2] WHETHER PETITIONERS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AND SPEEDY DISPOSITION OF HIS CASE
WAS VIOLATED.22 1awphi1.net
Did Judge Maceda act with grave abuse of discretion in issuing motu proprio the April 1, 2003 Order reopening the
case, before judgment was rendered, to receive the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses after both parties had
rested their case? Did the said order violate Cabarless right to due process and speedy disposition of his case?
On the first issue, Cabarles insists that Judge Maceda gravely abused his discretion when he ordered the reopening
of the case before promulgation of judgment although both parties had already rested their case. Cabarles argues

that a case may only be reopened after a judgment of conviction has been made but before its finality, as provided in
Section 24,23 Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Cabarles insists that the reopening of a case
under Section 24 presupposes that judgment has already been promulgated, which is not the case here. According to
petitioner, the cases cited by the People are not at all applicable in this case since they were tried and decided before
the introduction of Section 24 under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
For Judge Maceda, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that Section 24 is a new provision which
merely formalized the long accepted practice of judges of reopening a case to avoid a miscarriage of justice. This
being the case, jurisprudence providing that a judge has the discretion to reopen a case even before promulgation of
judgment still holds.
After a thorough consideration of the submissions by the parties, we find that the petition is meritorious.
A motion to reopen a case to receive further proofs was not in the old rules but it was nonetheless a recognized
procedural recourse, deriving validity and acceptance from long, established usage.24 This lack of a specific provision
covering motions to reopen was remedied by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which took effect on
December 1, 2000.
The April 1, 2003 Order was issued under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Section 24, Rule 119 and
existing jurisprudence stress the following requirements for reopening a case: (1) the reopening must be before the
finality of a judgment of conviction; (2) the order is issued by the judge on his own initiative or upon motion; (3) the
order is issued only after a hearing is conducted; (4) the order intends to prevent a miscarriage of justice; and (5) the
presentation of additional and/or further evidence should be terminated within thirty days from the issuance of the
order.
Generally, after the parties have produced their respective direct proofs, they are allowed to offer rebutting evidence
only. However, the court, for good reasons, in the furtherance of justice, may allow new evidence upon their original
case, and its ruling will not be disturbed in the appellate court where no abuse of discretion appears.25 A motion to
reopen may thus properly be presented only after either or both parties had formally offered and closed their
evidence, but before judgment is rendered,26 and even after promulgation but before finality of judgment27 and the
only controlling guideline governing a motion to reopen is the paramount interest of justice.28 This remedy of
reopening a case was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice.29
However, while Judge Maceda is allowed to reopen the case before judgment is rendered, Section 24 requires that a
hearing must first be conducted. Judge Maceda issued the April 1, 2003 Order without notice and hearing and without
giving the prosecution and accused an opportunity to manifest their position on the matter. This failure, to our mind,
constitutes grave abuse of discretion and goes against the due process clause of the Constitution which requires
notice and opportunity to be heard.30 The issuance of the said order, without the benefit of a hearing, is contrary to the
express language of Section 24, Rule 119.
Although the defense counsel had cross-examined Pedrosa and had participated in the proceedings after the case
was reopened by Judge Maceda, the same does not amount to a waiver of Cabarless objection to the April 1, 2003
Order. To be effective, a waiver must be certain and unequivocal.31 Here, Cabarles filed the present petition seeking
for a writ of certiorari against Judge Maceda before Pedrosa was cross-examined. Also, when asked to comment on
the prosecutions formal offer of evidence taken after the case was reopened, Cabarles objected to its admission on
the ground that the same was inadmissible having been received by the court after Judge Maceda issued the
questioned order.
On the second issue, Cabarles maintains that contrary to Judge Macedas observation, the prosecution was given
ample opportunity to present its case as seen by the issuance of several subpoenas to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen.
Cabarles argues that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty and should not be made to wait indefinitely for
prosecution witnesses to testify. To do so would violate his constitutional right to due process and a speedy
disposition of his case. According to Cabarles, the reopening of the case is clearly detrimental to him since it meant
another day in prison.

The OSG counters that the reopening of the case was made in accordance with Section 24 since the prosecution is
entitled to the reopening of the case to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, Cabarless right to a speedy
trial had not been violated since delays caused by the absence of a prosecution witness are excluded when
computing the time within which trial should start under Section 3,32 Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure.
Although the matter of reopening a case for reception of further evidence is largely a matter of discretion on the part
of the trial court judge, this judicial action must not, however, be done whimsically, capriciously and/or
unreasonably.33 In this particular case, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present all its witnesses but it
failed to do so. The failure of the prosecution to take full advantage of the opportunities given does not change the
fact that it was accorded such opportunities. Contrary to the justification stated in the April 1, 2003 Order, the
prosecution was not deprived of its day in court. While it may be true that due to some confusion with the trial courts
calendar, some of the trial dates assigned to the prosecution did not push through and some of the subpoenas issued
to Pedrosa and/or Dr. Salen pertained to hearing dates which were different from those assigned for reception of
prosecutions evidence, still the prosecution had a total of four hearing dates when it was given the chance to prove
its case: May 23, June 20 and 27, and August 1, 2001. The presence of prosecution witnesses in court is the
responsibility of the public prosecutor and it is incumbent upon him to take the initiative of ensuring the attendance of
his witnesses at the trial.34
Since Judge Maceda issued the questioned order without complying with the third requirement of Section 24, that
there be a hearing conducted before the order to reopen is issued, then the assailed order must be annulled and set
aside for having been issued contrary to law and consequently with grave abuse of discretion.35
On Cabarless right to a speedy disposition of his case, we agree that under the Constitution, all persons shall have
the right to a speedy disposition of their cases. Nowhere is this guaranty more significant and meaningful than in
criminal cases where not only the fortune, but the life and liberty of the accused as well, are at stake.36
Although a discussion on the right to speedy disposition of the case is mooted by our nullification of Judge Macedas
April 1, 2003 Order as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion, we are constrained to reiterate that the
concept of speedy disposition is relative or flexible. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not
sufficient. Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.37The right to a
speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended
by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and
secured; or when without cause or justifiable motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party
having his case tried.38
With regard to the OSGs allegation in its Comment and Memorandum, that Cabarles failed to observe the rule on
hierarchy of courts since the petition for certiorari was filed directly with the Supreme Court, Cabarles insists that he is
a detention prisoner needing immediate resolution of his case. He also argues that this case not only involves grave
abuse of discretion but also a pure question of law involving the application of Section 24, which is a new provision.39
It is necessary to stress that a direct recourse to this Court is highly improper for it violates the established policy of
strict observance of the hierarchy of courts. This Courts original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent
with the Court of Appeals and with the regional trial courts in proper cases within their respective regions. However,
this concurrence of jurisdiction does not grant a party seeking any of the extraordinary writs the absolute freedom to
file his petition with the court of his choice. This Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to
satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the Constitution and immemorial tradition. The hierarchy of courts
determines the appropriate forum for such petitions. Thus, petitions for the issuance of such extraordinary writs
against a regional trial court should be filed with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of this Courts original
jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly
and specifically set out in the petition. This is the established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent
inordinate demands upon this Courts time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive
jurisdiction, and to prevent further overcrowding of its docket.40
Under the present circumstances however, we are willing to take cognizance of this case as an exception to the
principle of hierarchy of courts. Cabarles invokes the jurisdiction of this Court in the interest of speedy justice since

the information against him was filed way back in June 1999,41 and almost eight years thereafter, no judgment has yet
been rendered. Any further delay in the resolution of the instant petition will be prejudicial to Cabarles. Also, the Court
has full discretionary power to take cognizance of the petition filed directly to it for compelling reasons or if warranted
by the nature of the issues raised.42 Since Section 24 is a new provision, and considering the irregularities in the
issuance of the April 1, 2003 Order, it is necessary to resolve the issues raised in this petition.
As a final word, we find the Supreme Courts pronouncement in the case of People v. Monje instructive:
A proposal has been expressed for the remand of this case to the trial court for further proceedings, apparently to
enable the prosecution to prove again what it failed to prove in the first instance. We cannot agree because it will set
a dangerous precedent. Aside from its being unprocedural, it would open the floodgates to endless litigations
because whenever an accused is on the brink of acquittal after trial, and realizing its inadequacy, the prosecution
would insist to be allowed to augment its evidence which should have been presented much earlier. This is a criminal
prosecution, and to order the remand of this case to the court a quo to enable the prosecution to present additional
evidence would violate the constitutional right of the accused to due process, and to speedy determination of his
case. The lamentable failure of the prosecution to fill the vital gaps in its evidence, while prejudicial to the State and
the private offended party, should not be treated by this Court with indulgence, to the extent of affording the
prosecution a fresh opportunity to refurbish its evidence.
In fine, we are not unmindful of the gravity of the crime charged; but justice must be dispensed with an even hand.
Regardless of how much we want to punish the perpetrators of this ghastly crime and give justice to the victim and
her family, the protection provided by the Bill of Rights is bestowed upon all individuals, without exception, regardless
of race, color, creed, gender or political persuasion - whether privileged or less privileged - to be invoked without fear
or favor. Hence, the accused deserves no less than an acquittal; ergo, he is not called upon to disprove what the
prosecution has not proved.43
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. We hold that the assailed Order dated April 1, 2003 was issued with
grave abuse of discretion. Said Order is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, any evidence received and
offered in this case as a result of the April 1, 2003 Order is hereby stricken off the record. Let the records of this case
be REMANDED immediately to the trial court concerned for its appropriate action without further delay. No
pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 173308

June 27, 2008

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
ELMER DE LA CRUZ and TRANQUILINO MARTINEZ, appellants.
DECISION
CORONA, J.:
For review is the November 2, 2005 decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. HC-CR No. 00947 affirming
with modification the November 18, 2002 decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 89 in
Criminal Case No. Q-99-80669 finding the accused-appellants Elmer de la Cruz (De la Cruz) and Tranquilino
Martinez (Martinez) guilty of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of death.
Charged with the crime of kidnapping for ransom were accused-appellants De la Cruz and Martinez, along with three
others, namely, Aldrin Tano (Tano), Romeo Dano (Dano) and Rex Tarnate (Tarnate). The information read:
That on or about November 9, 1998 in Quezon City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another,

did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, carry away and deprive AARON DENNIS ONG Y
RODRIGUEZ, a minor of eight (8) years old, of his liberty against his will for purposes of extorting money as
in fact a demand for money was made as a condition for his release.
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
On arraignment, only accused-appellant De la Cruz, Tarnate and Tano, assisted by their counsel, appeared. They all
entered a plea of not guilty. Accused-appellant Martinez was arrested subsequently and he likewise pleaded not guilty
upon his arraignment. Dano, on the other hand, remains at large to the present.
During trial, the RTC received a letter from the Quezon City Jail Warden that accused Tarnate died of cardiac arrest
during incarceration.
Thereafter, while in the process of presenting its witnesses, the prosecution filed a motion to discharge accused Tano
as a state witness. Accused-appellants De la Cruz and Martinez filed their separate oppositions thereto. The RTC
granted the motion and denied the motion for reconsideration.
The prosecution presented six witnesses, namely: the victim Aaron Dennis Ong (Aaron), his father Erwin Ong
(Erwin), Delfin Quinano (Quinano), Fortunato Sauquillo (Sauquillo), state witness Tano and Chief Inspector Rolando
Anduyan (Anduyan) of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).
As established during the trial, accused-appellant De la Cruz was employed by Erwin as a family driver. He brought
Aaron, then an eight-year-old third-grade student, to and from Claret School.
State witness Tano relayed that on November 4, 1998, he, accused-appellants De la Cruz and Martinez, along with
Dano, had a meeting wherein De la Cruz broached the idea of kidnapping Aaron. According to De la Cruz, the child
was a "good catch" as his boss family had "plenty of money." He knew this because he had accompanied Erwin to
the bank thrice. Martinez agreed that it was a good idea to abduct Aaron.
The group discussed the plan to kidnap Aaron on two other occasions. On November 5, 1998, they agreed that
Martinez should act as their leader, while De la Cruz would provide the tips. On November 8, 1998, De la Cruz
informed them that he would raise the hood of the car he was driving upon his arrival at the Claret School as a signal
to put the plan into action.
On November 9, 1998, De la Cruz fetched Aaron from school. As the boy took the car's front passenger seat, De la
Cruz placed Aaron's bag at the back seat of the car. De la Cruz told the child that the car was overheating and
proceeded to open the hood of the car and the rear compartment. He took a container of water and poured it on the
car's engine. Martinez got inside the car and handcuffed Aaron's left wrist. De la Cruz then closed the rear
compartment, boarded the car and seated himself behind the driver. He was also handcuffed by Martinez to Aaron.
Tano then went in and seated himself at the right side of the back seat beside De la Cruz and behind Aaron. Martinez
then drove the car all the way to Batasan Hills where Dano resided. They fetched Dano who took over control of the
car from Martinez. They proceeded to Minuyan, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, reaching the place at around 8:009:00 p.m.
Upon arrival, they removed Aaron's handcuff and entered a vacant house. Martinez and Tano left Aaron with De la
Cruz and proceeded to Tarnate's house. Martinez instructed Tarnate to feed the boy. He told the child not to make
any noise as somebody was guarding them outside. He left Aaron and De la Cruz who later told the child that he was
able to untie himself. Despite the chance to escape, however, he took a nap.
At around 10:00 p.m. that same evening, Martinez, Tano, Dano and Tarnate drove the Ongs' car and went back to
Batasan Hills in Quezon City. When the vehicle overheated, they abandoned it and boarded a tricycle to get to their
destination.

Erwin, who was by then frantically searching for his son in several hospitals and police stations, received a phone call
at around 10:45 p.m. from a man who told him not to look for his son anymore as Aaron was with him. When Erwin
asked to speak to his son, the man ignored him and told him to wait for another call.
The following morning, November 10, 1998, Martinez gave Tano a piece of paper with a telephone number. Written
there were the words "Maghanda ng tatlong milyon para sa kaligtasan ng anak mo." (Prepare P3 million for your
sons safety.) He ordered Tano to call Erwin and relay the written message to him.
Back at the vacant house where Aaron and De la Cruz were being kept, Quinano peeped inside, saw the two and
asked them why they were there. De la Cruz responded by asking him to open the door. Quinano, who was with two
women (one of them Editha Arizobal, Tarnate's common-law wife), opened the door. When they asked De la Cruz
what they were doing inside the vacant house, the latter replied that their car was borrowed for a medical emergency.
Aaron, on the other hand, told Quinano that some men took their car and left them there. One of the women
suggested that they report the incident to the police. De la Cruz said no and replied that he just wanted to go home.
Quinano then brought the two to the barangay hall and presented them to barangay kagawad Sauquillo who took
their statements and entered them in the barangay logbook. This was signed and verified by both Aaron and De la
Cruz. Erwin was then informed by phone that his son was already in the custody of the barangay officials in Barangay
Minuyan, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.
When Erwin arrived, the barangay chairman recommended that the incident be reported to the San Jose del Monte,
Bulacan Police. They went to the police station to file a complaint and give their statements. They were fetched by
PAOCTF personnel and met up with Col. Cesar Mancao at McDonald's Commonwealth Avenue. The latter assigned
Chief Inspector Anduyan to investigate the case.
After discussing the events surrounding the incident, Aaron, Erwin, De la Cruz, Anduyan and his team proceeded to
San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and interviewed Sauquillo. After learning that Tarnate and Editha Arizobal were in
charge of the vacant house where the two had been kept, Anduyan went to Tarnate's house to investigate. Tarnate
immediately admitted his participation and revealed information on the identities and whereabouts of the other
accused. He named Dano, Tano, and Martinez and led Anduyan's group to Martinez's house in Batasan HiIls.
Anduyan and his men proceeded to Batasan Hills and there waited for the other accused. An hour later, a taxicab
arrived and the three other accused alighted. As the police team moved to arrest them, Dano and Martinez were able
to escape in the confusion and only Tano was arrested. The house was searched and the authorities found Aaron's
bag inside. Anduyan spoke with the cab driver who identified the escapees as Dano and Martinez. The police
recovered Danos and Martinez's identification (ID) cards and two guns which were brought to Camp Crame.
When the identification cards were shown to Aaron, he was able to identify Dano and Martinez. Anduyan and his men
were able to arrest Martinez later on in connection with another kidnapping case.
The defense presented the testimonies of both accused-appellants. Martinez's defense hinged on denial and alibi. De
la Cruz, on the other hand, invoked his innocence.
After trial on the merits, the RTC convicted both accused-appellants of the crime charged. The dispositive portion of
the decision4 read:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered finding accused Elmer dela Cruz and
Tranquilino Martinez guilty of the crime of Kidnapping with Ransom as defined and penalized under
paragraph of Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code. Accordingly, accused Elmer dela Cruz and Tranquilino
Martinez are hereby each sentenced to death.
With respect to Rex Tarnate, his conviction cannot be pronounced as the same has been extinguished by
his death.
With cost against convicted accused.

The case was forwarded to this Court on automatic review but we referred it to the CA in accordance with People v.
Mateo.5 The CA affirmed the RTC decision:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 89 in
Criminal Case No. Q-99-80669 sentencing accused-appellants Elmer dela Cruz and Tranquilino Martinez to
DEATH for kidnapping for ransom is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that they shall pay in solidum the
amount of twenty five thousand pesos (P25,000.00) as exemplary damages to the victim, Aaron Dennis
Ong.
Finding that the penalty of death should be imposed, We thereby CERTIFY the case and elevate the entire
record to the Supreme Court for review6 and final disposition, pursuant to Section 13 (a & b), Rule 124 of the
Revised Rules of Court.
SO ORDERED.
We affirm accused-appellants' guilt.
In his brief, Martinez averred that there was no valid warrant for his arrest when he was shot in the back by police
officers at the time of his arrest. He recounted that he was merely walking along Roxas Boulevard and was not
committing any illegal act at the time, nor did the arresting officers have any knowledge of facts indicating that he had
just committed a crime. As such, his arrest without a warrant could not be justified.
We agree with the CA that, even if his arrest was unlawful because of the absence of a valid warrant of arrest, he was
deemed to have waived his right to assail the same, as he never bothered to question the legality thereof and, in fact,
even voluntarily entered his plea. In People v. Asis,7 we held that the accused-appellants therein were deemed to
have waived their right to assail the legality of their arrest when they voluntarily submitted themselves to the court by
entering a plea, instead of filing a motion to quash the information for lack of jurisdiction over their person.
Martinez further argued that the court a quo erred in ruling that he was a co-conspirator in the crime charged as the
identification by the minor victim that he was one of the perpetrators of the crime was unreliable and that the
testimony of the state witness regarding his complicity in the crime was doubtful. He harped on the fact that Aaron
could not have possibly taken a good look at the person he later on identified in open court as Martinez because, by
the child's own testimony, the man who handcuffed him was wearing a hat or a sunvisor which he did not remove
during the entire duration of the kidnapping incident.
It must be pointed out that this averment goes into the issue of the witness credibility. Time and again, we have held
that the trial court's evaluation of the credibility of a witness is entitled to the highest respect as it had the opportunity
to observe the witness demeanor on the stand and his manner of testifying. Trial court judges are in a unique
position to ascertain whether or not a witness is telling the truth. Consequently, unless it is shown that a trial judge
overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his
assessment of credibility must be upheld.8
In this case, we find no reason to overturn the conclusion arrived at by the trial court. It held that Aaron's testimony
was credible as he delivered his testimony in a clear, direct and positive manner. He positively identified accusedappellant Martinez twice, from the ID of the accused-appellant shown to him by the police and in open court, as the
man who handcuffed him and drove the family car from his school. He also categorically stated that he saw him again
in the vacant house where he and De la Cruz were brought.
Moreover, it cannot be said that Aaron could not have possibly taken a good look at the man he identified as Martinez
by mere reason of the hat or sunvisor which supposedly effectively concealed the latters face throughout the whole
ordeal. It is natural for persons who find themselves thrust into extraordinary circumstances to remember many of the
important details then taking place. The most natural reaction of victims of crimes is to strive to see the features and
faces of the perpetrators and observe the manner they commit the crime.9 In this case, it must be noted that Aaron
had several face-to-face encounters with Martinez: he was the one who first boarded the car; he was the one who

handcuffed the child; and he was the one who drove the car and was thus seated beside him until they fetched Dano
in Batasan Hills.
Consequently, Martinez's defense of denial and alibi (that he was supposedly with his brother in Barangay Paltik,
Dingalan, Aurora Province on November 4, 5, 8 and 9, 1998, managing his fishing boat) must crumble in the face of
Aaron's positive and clear identification of him as one of the perpetrators of the crime. Denial and alibi cannot be
given greater evidentiary value than the testimonies of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. Positive
identification destroys the defense of alibi and renders it impotent, especially where such identification is credible and
categorical.10
Besides, for alibi to prevail, the defense must establish by positive, clear and satisfactory proof that it was physically
impossible for the accused to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission, and not merely that
the accused was then somewhere else.11 In the instant case, Martinez failed to show that it was physically impossible
for him to have been at the scene of the crime. He could have easily traveled from Aurora Province (located in
Central Luzon) to Manila by land. It would have taken him only a few hours to reach Manila. Thus, there was no
physical impossibility for him to have been present at the scene of the crime when it was committed.
Furthermore, Martinezs contention (that his right to produce evidence and witnesses on his behalf was violated when
the trial court refused to grant his request to present corroborative witnesses to support his alibi) is untenable. The
denial of said request did not result in manifest injustice to Martinez for no amount of corroborative evidence could
alter and reverse the categorical and positive testimony of the minor pointing to him as one of his kidnappers. Due
process of law is not denied by the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial or incompetent evidence, or the testimony of an
incompetent witness. Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to
explain their respective sides of the controversy.12 In this case, there is no showing of violation of due process which
justifies the reversal of the trial court's findings.
For his part, De la Cruz questioned the trial court's act of discharging accused Tano as a state witness on two points:
Tano did not appear to be the least guilty among the accused and his testimony was not necessary.
For an accused to be discharged as a state witness, the following conditions must be present:
When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the
prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with
their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after requiring the prosecution to present
evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge,
the court is satisfied that:
a. There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
b. There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed,
except the testimony of said accused;
c. The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
d. Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and,
e. Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.13
xxx
The provision does not require that a state witness should appear to be the "least guilty" among the accused. Rather,
it provides that he "does not appear to be the most guilty." The findings of the lower court revealed that Tano merely
facilitated the commission of the crime. He merely boarded the car and sat beside accused-appellant De la Cruz
throughout the whole ride and accompanied accused-appellant Martinez in going back to Batasan Hills after leaving

Aaron and accused-appellant De la Cruz in Bulacan. True, he was the one who placed the call to Erwin to demand
ransom. However, he was neither the mastermind nor the one who hatched the plan to kidnap Aaron in exchange for
money. Clearly, he did not appear to be the most guilty among the accused. Thus, we uphold the propriety of the trial
court's designation of Tano as state witness.
Moreover, his testimony was absolutely necessary as it was the only direct evidence establishing the presence of
conspiracy,14 from the planning stage up to the commission of the crime.
On the issue of conspiracy, we hold that the prosecution sufficiently established it. There is conspiracy when two or
more persons agree to commit a felony and decide to commit it. It need not be proven by direct evidence, for it may
be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime, showing that they
acted with common purpose and design.15
The prosecution was able to present direct evidence of the conspiracy (by state witness Tano) and to show that the
conduct of all the accused overwhelmingly pointed to the unanimity in design, intent and execution of the crime
against the victim. Each of them performed specific acts according to place and in close coordination with one
another, unmistakably indicating a common purpose to bring about Aarons abduction in exchange for money.
As to whether or not De la Cruz was a co-conspirator of the other accused, the records show that he was
undoubtedly part of the planned abduction. When the abduction commenced, De la Cruz even had the presence of
mind to close the rear compartment of the car even after seeing his ward being handcuffed. There was an opportunity
for him to escape since it was not shown that he was forced to board the car against his will. It was therefore beyond
comprehension, to say the least, why he did not even try to run away from the scene. He clearly boarded the car on
his own free will and allowed his co-accused Martinez to handcuff him.
Moreover, De la Cruz again showed no intention of escaping despite another chance to do so after untying himself.
Considering the critical situation they were in, he even decided to catch some sleep as if it was the most natural thing
to do under such circumstances.
Equally confounding was the fact that all the other accused left them in the vacant house and went back to Batasan
Hills without leaving anyone to stand guard over them.
Furthermore, De la Cruz even tried to cover up for the abductors by telling the witness Quinano and his companions
that their car was used for an "emergency" when the latter asked what they were doing inside the vacant house. And
when one of the women suggested that the crime be reported to the police, De la Cruz suspiciously brushed off the
suggestion and replied, "Huwag na," because he would rather "go home." All told, these were not actuations of an
innocent person victimized by a kidnap-for-ransom gang. The circumstances indubitably pointed to the fact that he
was one of the authors of the crime.
While this Court affirms the finding of guilt of accused-appellants, it can no longer impose the penalty of death in view
of RA 9346.16 Section 2 of RA 9346 mandates that, in lieu of the death penalty, reclusion perpetua without eligibility
for parole should instead be imposed.
In line with prevailing jurisprudence, the award of P50,000 civil indemnity17 was proper. Pursuant to People
v.Garalde,18 P200,000 for moral damages is awarded to Aaron considering his minority.19 Moreover, since the crime
was attended by a demand for ransom, and by way of example or correction, Aaron is entitled to P100,000 exemplary
damages.20
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. HC-CR No. 00947 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH
MODIFICATIONS. Elmer De la Cruz and Tranquilino Martinez are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
kidnapping for ransom. They are sentenced to reclusion perpetua with no possibility of parole and ordered to pay,
jointly and severally, P50,000 civil indemnity, P200,000 moral damages and P100,000 exemplary damages to the
minor victim, Aaron Dennis Ong.
Costs against appellants.

SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 146689. September 27, 2002]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. FERNANDO (FERDINAND) MONJEY ROSARIO
@ Fernan, LORDINO (BERNARD) MAGLAYA Y ALVAREZ @ Odeng (acquitted), CHRISTOPHER
BAUTISTA
Y ROSARIO
@ Totde (acquitted),
and
MICHAEL
CASTRO
Y OSIAS
@Iking (acquitted), accused.
FERNANDO (FERDINAND) MONJE y ROSARIO @ Fernan, accused-appellant.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:
To administer by final judgment the dreaded lethal injection on the basis of cumulus circumstantial evidence consisting mainly of the testimony of a witness who failed and refused to return to court and submit to crossexamination four (4) times - is judicial tyranny of the highest order, which this Court should never commit. In
conscience and in absolute fidelity to our trust, we cannot agree to what would amount to
a blatant misuse of the strong arm of the law, in complete disregard of the constitutional guaranties of the
accused. Where the life of a human being - who is presumed to be innocent - is at stake, we should require nothing
less than proof beyond reasonable doubt. And if proof is by circumstancial evidence, the circumstances must be
established to form an unbroken chain of events leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the
accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the author of the crime.Otherwise, indubilis reus est absolvendus. All
doubts must be resolved in favor of the accused.
To illustrate: A met B with blood-stained clothes hurriedly coming out of the room still holding a knife dripping
with blood. A entered the room and saw his wife lifeless on the floor with blood still oozing from a stab wound on her
chest. There was no other person in the room which had only one door for ingress and egress. By a chain of
unbroken circumstancial evidence, there can be no other conclusion than that B and B alone, and no other, could
have stabbed A's wife to death.
The case before us is a classic example of circumstantial evidence of what the above illustration is not. Aside
from the unexplained non-appearance of the "principal witness" at his scheduled cross-examination no less than four
(4) times, the chain of circumstances brought out by the witness is too weak - not unbroken to incriminate the
accused-appellant in the crime charged. The possibility of other people being responsible therefor
is not remote consideringthat it supposedly happened in a wide open ricefield freely accessible to people from all
walks of life, as may be shown hereunder:
Fernando (Ferdinand) Monje y Rosario alias Fernan, together with Lordino (Bernard) Maglaya y Alvarez
alias Odeng, Christopher Bautista y Rosario alias Totde and Michael Castro y Osias alias Iking were charged with
rape with homicide for the brutal rape and killing of 15-year old Imee Diez Paulino. [1] On 13 November 2000, after
trial, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, of Malolos, Bulacan, acquitted Maglaya, Bautista and Castro but convicted
Monje of the crime charged and sentenced him to death, and to indemnify the heirs of the victim P75,000.00 as
actual damages and P50,000.00 as moral damages, plus costs.[2]
As the trial court found, in the evening of 24 April 1997 at around 9:00 o'clock Imee Diez Paulino asked
permission from her mother to play bingo at the house of their barangay captain at Francisco Homes, San Jose del
Monte, Bulacan. Three (3) days later, Imee's lifeless body was found lying in the ricefields naked, except for her
brassiere, with several injuries including a fractured skull that caused massive brain hemorrhage. The body was
already in a state of decomposition. The medico-legal officer surmised that the injuries on the skull were caused by
fist blows or by a hard blunt instrument. The genital examination disclosed that Imee was brutally raped before she
was killed. Her hymen was completely lacerated and there was a 2.5-centimeter laceration of the perineum. The
medico-legal officer further opined that such laceration could not have been caused by an ordinary-sized penis but by

a much bigger object forcibly inserted to the vagina. The blood clots in the vaginal area showed that Imee was still
alive when the object was forced into her.
During the wake, Michael Cordero, a tricycle driver plying the vicinity of Francisco Homes, told Maria Isabel Diez
Paulino, mother of Imee, that in the evening of 24 April 1997 at around 11:00 o'clock he saw the victim back-riding
with accused-appellant Fernando Monje with three (3) other persons in the sidecar whom he did not know. From a
distance of about six (6) arms length he allegedly saw Imee, accused-appellant Monje, and the three (3) unidentified
persons alight from the tricycle and walk towards the ricefields. At about 1:00 o'clock the following morning only
Monje and his three (3) companions returned to the tricycle.
When placed on the witness stand Cordero identified the three (3) companions of Monje as Lordino Maglaya,
also a tricycle driver, Christopher Baustista, a taxi driver, and Michael Castro, a bus conductor, all residents of
Francisco Homes.
Another prosecution witness Jojit Vasquez testified that at about midnight of 24 April 1997 he eloped with Irene,
sister of Imee, and they went to the vacant house of a certain Alvin situated also at Francisco Homes. At about 2:00
o'clock the following morning, 25 April 1997, Monje and Maglaya followed by Bautista and Castro arrived at the same
house on board two (2) tricycles, but Bautista and Castro left after a short while. Monje appeared surprised,
especially upon seeing Irene. At around 3:00 o'clock Jojit and Irene left the house and proceeded to Cubao where
they boarded a bus for Pangasinan.
Monje denied complicity in the crime charged and pleaded for his acquittal. He claimed that on 24 April 1997 at
about 9:00 o'clock in the evening he was already sleeping in his uncle's house in Francisco Homes, San Jose Del
Monte, Bulacan. He further claimed that he never woke up until 6:00 o'clock the following morning.
Nobody saw the actual commission of the crime. But death now lurks upon accused-appellant Monje on the
basis alone of the following circumstantial evidence put together by the court a quo: (a) the testimony of Michael
Cordero to the effect that he saw the accused and his three (3) companions with victim Imee Paulino back-riding with
the accused on a tricycle at around 11:00 o'clock in the evening of 24 April 1997 heading towards a ricefield, and
that at around 1:00 o'clock the following morning he saw accused-appellant with three (3) companions returning to
the tricycle without the victim; (b) the testimony of Jojit Vasquez that at around 2:00 o'clock in the morning of 25 April
1997 he saw the accused and his unidentified companions in the house of a certain Alvin; (c) the fact that the
decomposing body of the victim was later found in a ricefield naked except for a brassiere; and, (d) that the accused
went home to Cagayan two (2) weeks after he learned that an Information had been filed implicating him in the crime.
Quite significantly, these circumstances do not establish an unbroken chain of eventsthat would show the
complicity of the accused in the rape-slay of victim Imee Paulino.Apparently, the case for the prosecution is woven
principally around the testimony of witness Michael Cordero. It must be emphasized however that his testimony was
not sufficiently tested on the crucible of cross-examination, specifically, that significant portion of his direct
examination where he purportedly saw the accused and three (3) unidentified persons returning to the tricycle from
the ricefield without the victim around 1:00 o'clock the following morning.
After his initial cross-examination by defense counsel, witness Cordero failed and refused to return to court for
the continuation of his cross-examination. In other words, except for his brief cross-examination which had barely
scratched the surface, so to speak, and despite the insistence of the defense counsel to pursue his crossexamination and the repeated warnings from the trial court that it would be constrained to strike out and disregard his
testimony should he fail to appear again, the witness stubbornly refused to return to court for his cross-examination.[3]
It bears stressing that the cross-examination of a witness is an absolute right, not a mere privilege, of the party
against whom he is called. With regard to the accused, it is a right guaranteed by the fundamental law as part of due
process. Article III, Sec. 14, par. (2), of the1987 Constitution specifically mandates that "the accused shall enjoy the
right to meet the witnesses face to face," and Rule 115, Sec. 1, par. (f), of the 2000 Rules of Criminal
Procedureenjoins that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall be entitled to confront and cross-examine the
witnesses against him at the trial.[4] Cross-examination serves as a safeguard to combat unreliable testimony,
providing means for discrediting a witness' testimony, and is in the nature of an attack on the truth and accuracy of his
testimony. The purpose of cross-examination, however, is not limited to bringing out a falsehood, since it is also a

leading and searching inquiry of the witness for further disclosure touching the particular matters detailed by him in
his direct examination, and it serves to sift, modify, or explain what has been said, in order to develop new or old facts
in a view favorable to the cross-examiner. The object of cross-examination therefore is to weaken or disprove the
case of ones adversary, and break down his testimony in chief, test the recollection, veracity, accuracy, honesty and
bias or prejudice of the witness, his source of information, his motives, interest and memory, and exhibit the
improbabilities of his testimony.[5]
In other words, the ultimate purpose of cross-examination is to test the truth or falsity of the statements of a
witness during direct examination. Unfortunately, for the accused, these objectives of cross-examination were never
attained in this case because of the continued failure and refusal of witness Cordero to appear for his crossexamination. How can the truth be ascertained if the cross-examination is not completed?
In the Sur-Rejoinder of Mme. Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, it is submitted that Cordero was sufficiently
cross-examined on the substantial points of his direct testimony, citingPeople v. Seneris[6] which held that testimony
may not be stricken from the record where the witness has already been sufficientlly cross-examined.
We discussed at length in Seneris the effects of the absence or the incomplete cross-examination of a witness
on the admissibility in evidence of his testimony on direct examination.The basic rule is that the testimony of a
witness given on direct examination should be stricken off the record where there was no adequate opportunity for
cross-examination. Of course, there are notable modifications to the basic rule which make its application essentially
on a case-to-case basis. Thus, where a party had the opportunity to cross-examine a witness but failed to avail
himself of it, he necessarily forfeits his right to cross-examine and the testimony given by the witness on direct
examination will be allowed to remain on record.[7] But when the cross-examination is not or cannot be done or
completed due to causes attributable to the party offering the witness, or to the witness himself, the uncompleted
testimony is thereby rendered incompetent and inadmissible in evidence.[8] The direct testimony of a witness who dies
before the conclusion of the cross-examination can be stricken only insofar as not covered by the cross-examination,
[9]
and the absence of a witness is not enough to warrant striking of his testimony for failure to appear for further
cross-examination where the witness has already been sufficiently cross-examined, which is not true in the present
case, or that the matter on which further cross-examination is sought is not in controversy.[10]
Under the facts of the present case, the prosecution witness Michael Cordero alone was responsible for his
failure to appear on four (4) scheduled hearings for his cross-examination.He was absent from the hearings without
valid cause on record. In Seneris, the prosecution witness Mario Nemenio was not responsible for his failure to
appear and complete his cross-examination owing to his untimely death. Hence, it was impossible for him to return to
court for his cross-examination. On the other hand, Cordero was directed by the trial court to complete his crossexamination in four (4) scheduled hearings but which he failed to attend without giving any justifiable reason.
In the instant case, it is beyond cavil that the accused was not afforded adequateopportunity to cross-examine,
not of his own design but because of the unexplained failure of the witness to appear on the succeeding four (4)
scheduled hearings despite repeated warnings from the court. As may be noted, the defense counsel was barely
through with his preliminary questions at the initial stage of his cross-examination. In fact, the defense counsel
repeatedly manifested his desire to further cross-examine witness Cordero as counsel still had "important matters" to
clear up with the witness regarding some "conflicting testimonies."[11]
In the case before us, no less than the presiding judge himself recognized the need for further crossexamination when he warned that witness Cordero should return otherwise his testimony "not touched upon by the
cross-examination would be stricken off the record." And the cross-examiner was insisting on the constitutional right
of the accused to confront the witnesses against him and to cross-examine them. Even the other witness, Jojit
Vasquez, failed to appear on 8 October 1998 when required as may be gathered from the order of the trial court
issued on that date. In the instant case, prosecution witness Cordero failed to appear four (4) times for his crossexamination without justifiable reason, thus depriving the cross-examiner of the right to confront him and test his
credibility and shed light on matters vital to the defense.
Combining the testimony of Cordero with those of the other prosecution witnesses, theidentity of the perpetrator
or perpetrators of this abominable crime could not have been deduced. A reasonable inference about a matter in
issue, more specifically, about the likely existence of a fact in issue is necessary to achieve sufficient circumstantial

evidence to support not only a conviction but the death sentence. Having allegedly seen the victim and the accused
on that fateful evening of 24 April 1997 from a distance of six (6) arms length, what did the witness observe about the
behavior of the victim in relation to the accused? Did the witnessnotice anything unusual about the appearance of the
accused at 11:00 o'clock that evening of 24 April 1997, and again at 2:00 o'clock the following morning? Were there
marked differences observed between the appearance of the accused at 11:00 o'clock that evening and their
appearance at 2:00 o'clock the following morning? What clothes were they wearing? What were their sizes - height,
build, or possibly their estimated weight? What was the color of the tricycle or tricycles or tricycles; was there only
one or were there two (2) tricycles? Did the vehicle or vehicles have any distinguishing marks, dents, or other peculiar
physical distinguishing appearances? Did the witness or witnesses notice any marks or signs of physical struggle on
the bodies of the accused when seen at 2:00 o'clock in the morning of 25 April 1997? These are only a few of the
questions which could have been propounded to witness Cordero to ascertain the truth or falsity of his testimony. But,
unfortunately, he failed to attend the scheduled hearings for his cross-examination. Thus, he left more questions than
answers on the circumstances of the tragedy that befell the Paulino family.
Cordero's cross-examination did not even delve on the matter that Monje and his three (3) unidentified
companions returned to the tricycle without the victim. Besides, even if we take into account Cordero's partial crossexamination, the same would not have proved beyond reasonable doubt that Monje was the perpetrator of the
heinous crime. At the very least, what it tended to establish was that at around 11:00 o'clock in the evening of 24 April
1997 Cordero saw Imee in the company of Monje and three (3) unidentified persons. But was this enough to deny the
accused his fundamental right to life and to be free?
Right from the beginning, Cordero was already a reluctant witness for the prosecution. He could not be found in
the address given by the prosecution when the first subpoena ad testificandum was served. On the second attempt to
secure his attendance in court, he could not again be located. Only his mother was at the given address but she even
refused to sign and acknowledge receipt of the subpoena. [12] Cordero was cross-examined on 24 October 1997 but
only briefly because of lack of time and the court had to call the other scheduled cases; on 29 January 1998 Cordero
could not be cross-examined because, as the court observed, he appeared physically and emotionally unfit to go on
with his cross-examination. He never showed up in court on the subsequent trial dates, i.e., 19 March, 28 August, 17
September and 8 October 1998. No valid excuse or justification can be discerned from the records to explain his
continued refusal to appear for his cross-examination.
Being the supposed "star witness" for the prosecution, the presence of Cordero in court was the responsibility of
the public prosecutor, and it was incumbent upon him to take the initiative in ensuring the attendance of his witnesses
at the trial; more so in this case where, as admitted no less by the public prosecutor himself, " Cordero's testimony
was very vital considering that the evidence against the accused were (sic) purely circumstantial and none of
the witnesses saw the actual rape-slay."[13] The public prosecutor could have easily moved for an arrest, or in the
alternative, to have the witness cited in contempt for his willful failure to appear at the trial as a material witness for
the prosecution.
Quite significantly, during the hearing on 17 September 1998 the defense counsel moved that the testimony of
Cordero be stricken off the record. But the public prosecutor prayed for a last chance to present Cordero on the next
scheduled hearing, which was granted by the trial court with a warning that should Cordero "fail to give any
satisfactory explanation for his failure to appear, his testimony given so far will be stricken off the
record."[14] Then, on 8 October 1998 the court a quo made good its warning, albeit qualifiedly, and ordered thus Despite due notice, the last two (2) witnesses for the prosecution, Michael Cordero and Jojit Vasquez, as shown in the return of
service by the Court Process Server, again failed to appear without justifiable cause or reason. For that reason, as agreed upon
by the prosecution and the defense, the testimony so far given by witness Michael Cordero not touched upon by the crossexamination partially conducted by the defense counsel is hereby stricken off the record, saving that part of his testimony upon
which he was duly cross-examined by the defense counsel (underscoring supplied).[15]
The foregoing order notwithstanding, the trial court convicted the accused and sentence him to death on the
basis of the testimony of Cordero, but at the same time acquitting his three (3) co-accused after observing that such
testimony was an "unexplained development." Without the benefit of a full cross-examination, the ex parte statements
of the witness are too uncertain, shaky and unreliable to be included in the review of controverted facts. They cannot
be allowed to form part of the evidence and their consideration by the court a quo was clearly unwarranted.

It is a well-entrenched doctrine that courts should only consider and rely on duly established evidence and
never on mere conjectures or suppositions. Professor Wigmore explains that legal relevancy of evidence
denotes "something more than a minimum of probative value," suggesting that such evidentiary relevance must
contain a "plus value."[16] This may be necessary to prevent the court from being satisfied by matters of slight value,
capable of being exaggerated by prejudice and hasty conclusions. Evidence without this "plus value" may be logically
relevant but not legally sufficient to convict. It is incumbent upon the court to balance the probative value of such
evidence against the likely harm that would result from its admission.
The verdict in a criminal case can be sustained only when there is relevant evidence from which the court can
properly find or infer that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.Thus, the test in determining the
sufficiency of circumstantial evidence can be summed up as follows: Is the evidence sufficient to exclude every
reasonable hypothesis proving innocence, except the guilt of the accused, given the circumstances of the case? In
reviewing criminal cases that could very well exact the ultimate penalty of death, we should do more than merely
determine whether the trial court could reasonably conclude that the established facts were more probable than
not. We must, in every instance, determine whether the trial court could reasonably conclude that the facts
were certain to have occurred.
It bears stressing that even the trial judge who was privy to the entire proceedings below did not lend full
credence to the entire testimony of Cordero. On the contrary, he even expressed doubt as to their veracity. Consider
the following: When Cordero executed his sworn statement before the police authorities he declared that he did not
know the identities of the three (3) companions of Monje, but when finally placed on the witness stand he readily
identified them as Maglaya, Bautista and Castro. No explanation was proffered on why he flip-flopped on his
testimony. Perplexed, the trial court described this as an unexplained development While the Court believes that he indeed saw at that time accused Monje with the victim before she was found dead at the same
vicinity they were seen, the Court also believes that in both instances he saw with said accused in the same vicinity three other
persons not known to him, like he said to the police. That is why his testimony at the trial that those three persons were the
three other accused known to him and he pointed to in court as the companions of accused Monje when he saw them with the
victim that fatal night, came as an unexplained development. If he saw and recognized that night his co-tricycle driver
accused Monje, he could not have failed to recognize accused Lordino Odeng Maglaya, another tricycle driver at Francisco
Homes, and most probably also accused Christopher Bautista and Michael Castro who were residents of Francisco Homes
like he was, if indeed, these were the three unknown persons he saw that night with accused Monje and victim Imee. [17]
Interestingly, the trial judge acquitted the three (3) other accused based on the weakness of the testimony of
Cordero and Vasquez. Strangely, however, based on the same weak evidence, the trial judge convicted the accusedappellant. Could it not be that the most logical step for the court a quo was to acquit likewise herein accused Monje in
view of the clearly weak and unreliable testimony of witnesses Cordero and Vasquez? In hindsight, even if we take
into account Cordero's partial cross-examination, the same would not have established an unbroken chain of
circumstances proving beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was the perpetrator of the heinous crime. At most,
what it tended to establish was that at about 11:00 o'clock in the evening of 24 April 1997 Cordero saw Imee in the
company of Monje and three (3) unidentified persons and nothing more - nothing of the rape and slaying of Imee!
Indeed, other than the anemic testimony of Cordero, there is no evidence effectively linking the accused to the
rape and brutal slaying of Imee Diez Paulino. The testimony of the second witness for the prosecution, Jojit Vasquez,
as to the presence of the accused and his companions in the house of a certain Alvin, is likewise disappointingly
unreliable to establish alogical relationship between the commission of the crime and complicity of the accused
therein.This evidence, even if tied up with the testimony of Cordero that accused was last seen with the victim, does
not establish a causal connection, nor support an inference, much less a conclusion, that accused had something to
do with the rape and killing of the victim.
In assaying the probative value of circumstantial evidence, four (4) basic guidelines must be observed: (a) It
should be acted upon with caution; (b) All the essential facts must be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt; (c) The
facts must exclude every other theory but that of guilt of the accused; and, (d) The facts must establish with certainty
the guilt of the accused as to convince beyond reasonable doubt that he was the perpetrator of the offense. The
peculiarity of circumstantial evidence is that the series of events pointing to the commission of a felony is
appreciated not singly but collectively. The guilt of the accused cannot be deduced from scrutinizing just one (1)

particular piece of evidence. It is more like a puzzle which when put together reveals a convincing picture pointing to
the conclusion that the accused is the author of the crime.[18]
Under the rules, circumstantial evidence is sufficient to convict an accused if the following requisites concur: (a)
There is more than one circumstance; (b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proved; and, (c) The
combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
Circumstantial evidence finds application in crimes such as rape with homicide. The nature of the crime of rape,
where usually only the victim and the rapist are present at the crime scene,makes prosecutions for the complex crime
of rape with homicide particularly difficult since the victim can no longer testify against the perpetrator of the crime.
[19]
Circumstantial evidence must form a complete and unbroken chain which, taking the evidence as a whole, leads
directly to the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt excluding any reasonable inference other than that of
guilt.
Conceding arguendo that indeed Imee was last seen alive at 11:00 o'clock in the evening of 24 April 1997 in the
company of the accused, yet, there was no other circumstance tending toprove that he was the one who raped and
killed her. In fact, the time of the rape as well as the killing was not even satisfactorily established. The medico-legal
officer did not give a categorical answer as to the exact time of death of the victim. On the contrary, he merely gave
an approximation, i.e., "two (2), three (3), four (4) days or more." In fact, this approximation is of no help at all
because if we reckon it from the time when the decomposing body of the victim was found, i.e., on 27 April 1997, the
three (3) dates when the victim supposedly died would be 25 April (counting two (2) days from 27 April), 24 April
(counting three (3) days from 27 April), 23 April (counting four (4) days from 27 April), and 22 April backwards
(counting more than four (4) days). This would have been absurd and in no way coincide with the date when the
victim was supposedly last seen alive.
Notably, no mention was made of the circumstances leading to the discovery and retrieval of the decomposing
body of the victim. Plainly, there is no basis to deduce, much less conclude, that the victim was brought to and
later recovered from the same ricefield.
So much time elapsed from the moment Imee was last seen alive on 24 April 1997 and when her decomposing
body was found on 27 April 1997. Possibilities abound as to what actually happened between 24 and 27 April
1997. The prosecution miserably failed to fill the void with satisfactory and convincing evidence.
Accused-appellant allegedly "fled" to Cagayan after the filing of the Information, supposedly when he learned he
was included therein, which the trial court considered as evidence of a guilty conscience. Although as a general rule
flight is an indication of guilt, the same should not be flippantly considered. "Flight" is a circumstance from which an
inference of guilt may be drawn only when it is unexplained and with an evident purpose of evading prosecution. The
accused-appellant adequately explained that he went home to Cagayan upon the prodding of an uncle after a quarrel
with his cousin who chided him as one they had to feed or "palamunin" since he was allegedly jobless. Accusedappellant went to his home province after more than two (2) weeks from the filing of the Information. Thus, he did not
leave the place immediately after learning he was being implicated in the crime. There was no indication whatsoever
that he intentionally made his presence scarce in his community to evade prosecution.
Admittedly, the evidence for the defense is weak and that the facts established do not entirely rule out the
possibility that the accused could be responsible for the crime. However, from our understanding of basic procedural
due process, his conviction must come from the strength of the prosecution evidence and not from the weakness of
his defense; never upon possibilities. Proof, to sustain conviction, must withstand the test of reason and the
constitutional right of confrontation. Mere suspicion of guilt, no matter how strong, cannot be permitted to sway
judgment.
So, too, while this Court as a rule desists from disturbing the findings and conclusions of the trial court,
especially with respect to the credibility of witnesses, we must bow to the superior and immutable rule that the guilt of
the accused must be proved beyond reasonable doubt because the law presumes that the accused-appellant is
innocent. This presumption must prevail until the end unless overcome by strong, clear and compelling evidence.

A proposal has been expressed for the remand of this case to the trial court for further proceedings, apparently
to enable the prosecution to prove again what it failed to prove in the first instance. We cannot agree because it will
set a dangerous precedent. Aside from its being unprocedural, it would open the floodgates to endless litigations
because whenever an accused is on the brink of acquittal after trial, and realizing its inadequacy, the prosecution
would insist to be allowed to augment its evidence which should have been presented much earlier. This is a criminal
prosecution, and to order the remand of this case to the court a quo to enable the prosecution to present additional
evidence would violate the constitutional right of the accused to due process, and to speedy determination of his
case. The lamentable failure of the prosecution to fill the vital gaps in its evidence, while prejudicial to the State and
the private offended party, should not be treated by this Court with indulgence, to the extent of affording the
prosecution a fresh opportunity to refurbish its evidence.
In fine, we are not unmindful of the gravity of the crime charged; but justice must be dispensed with an even
hand. Regardless of how much we want to punish the perpetrators of this ghastly crime and give justice to the victim
and her family, the protection provided by the Bill of Rights is bestowed upon all individuals, without exception,
regardless of race, color, creed, gender or political persuasion - whether privileged or less privileged - to be invoked
without fear or favor. Hence, the accused deserves no less than an acquittal; ergo, he is not called upon to disprove
what the prosecution has not proved.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the court a quo finding accused FERNANDO (FERDINAND) MONJE y
Rosario alias Fernan guilty of rape with homicide is REVERSED andSET ASIDE for insufficiency of evidence; at
least, on reasonable doubt. Consequently, he isACQUITTED of the crime charged and is ordered IMMEDIATELY
RELEASED from custody unless lawfully held for another cause.
The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to implement this Decision immediately and to report to
this Court the action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt hereof.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 118670

February 22, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
RENATO DE GUZMAN and MARCIANO RAMOS, accused-appellants.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Renato de Guzman, Marciano Ramos, Frederick Mosqueda and Paquito Ancheta were charged with Robbery with
Homicide before the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, Branch 7 in an Information dated January 26, 1993 which
reads, thus:
That on or about the 2nd day of December, 1992, in the City of Baguio, Philippines and within the jurisdiction
of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding one
another, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of violence, intimidation, taking
advantage of nighttime, and with intent to gain, and against the consent of the owners, take, rob and carry
away the following articles, to wit:
Cash

P7,000.00

One(1) 22k bracelet

3,200.00

Three (3) 18k Pinky rings

3,500.00

One pair Creolla earrings

1,800.00

One men's Seiko watch


One pocketbell unit

5,000.00 ($200)
12,000.00

One ID leather case

150.00

One check slip


One Chefmate knife
One Chinese 24k ring

8,000.00

One ID bracelet 18k

2,500.00

One bracelet with stones

2,500.00

One Kia Pride car


TOTAL
to the damage and prejudice of the said owners Dr. Amadeo Belmonte and Mrs. Maria Regina Belmonte in
the aforesaid amount; that on the occasion and by reason of said robbery and for the purpose of enabling
them to take, steal, rob and carry away the properties aforementioned, the above-named accused, did then
and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and with intent to kill, being then armed with a knife and gun, taking
advantage of the night, and of their superior strength, and by means of treachery, and ignominy, stab, shoot,
strangle, hang then kill Dr. Amadeo Belmonte, and with the same circumstances kill Teresa Hape.1
Only De Guzman, Ramos and Mosqueda were apprehended. Ancheta remains at-large. When they were arraigned,
the three accused entered a plea of "not guilty." At the trial and upon motion of the prosecution, Mosqueda was
discharged and was utilized as state witness.
On December 21, 1994, the Regional Trial Court rendered a decision finding de Guzman and Ramos guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of robbery with homicide, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this Court finds the accused Renato De Guzman and Marciano
Ramos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with homicide and hereby sentences them to
suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification (See
Art. 41 and 73 of the R.P.C.) (NOTE: the old law is still more favorable to the accused than the new law, R.A.
7659).
With respect to the civil aspect, this Court hereby orders Renato de Guzman and Marciano Ramos:
1. To restore to the legal heirs of the victim, Dr. Belmonte, the following: (1) a cash amount of P7,000.00
representing a fee of Dr. Belmonte; (2) a Seiko watch at P5,000.00; (3) an I.D. leather case valued at
P150.00; (4) a pocketbell unit valued at P12,000.00; (5) earrings valued at P1,800.00; (6) a 22k bracelet
valued at P2,500.00 each; (7) a Chinese gold ring valued at P8,000.00; (8) another ring valued at
P3,500.00; (9) a VHS unit; and (10) a pair of rubber shoes valued at P500.00, or in case of failure to do so,
to pay jointly and solidarily the value thereof as therein stated;
2. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Dr. Belmonte and Teresa Hape in the amount of
P50,000.00 each victim (Art. 2206) or a total of P100,000.00 for all.
3. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Dr. Belmonte for consequential damages as follows:
a) P46,200,000.00 representing the lost earnings of Dr. Belmonte for 25 years since he was only 35
years old when killed and the life expectancy of an average Filipino is now 60 years old;
b) P274,809.00 representing actual and/or compensatory damages;
c) P1,000,000.00 as moral damages;
d) P100,000.00 as exemplary damages;

280,000.00
P325,650.00

4. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Teresa Hape P100,000.00 as exemplary damages;
The accused shall be credited in full of their preventive imprisonment, or 4/5 thereof, as the case may be,
pursuant to Art. 29, RPC. This is material in connection with any pardon that may be bestowed upon the said
accused pursuant to Art. 27, RPC. No subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.1wphi1.nt
Costs against the accused.2
Unsatisfied with the verdict, accused-appellants are now before this Court on appeal. However, during the pendency
of this case, accused-appellant De Guzman filed an Urgent Motion to Withdraw Appeal,3 which was granted by this
Court in a Resolution dated December 2, 1998.4 Consequently, the instant appeal pertains only to that of accusedappellant Ramos.
The facts as found by the trial court are as follows:
Sometime in September 1992, Dr. Amadeo Belmonte and his wife Maria Regina Belmonte engaged the services of
Renato De Guzman, a welder by profession, to construct and install a water tank in their house in Loakan, Baguio
City. De Guzman, in turn, hired Frederick Mosqueda as sub-contractor. While the work was in progress, De Guzman,
on October 27, 1992, sent Mosqueda to the house of the Belmontes to ask for an additional P2,000.00 with which to
buy paint for the tank. The spouses Belmonte refused to give him the amount because they believed De Guzman had
already obtained more than enough to defray the expenses for the construction and installation of the water tank. In
turn, the spouses demanded that De Guzman return the amounts he had already received considering his failure to
finish construction and installation of the water tank.
When De Guzman heard what the Belmontes said, he was furious. He then manifested to Mosqueda his intent to kill
the Belmontes.
During a drinking spree sometime in November 1992, De Guzman, Paquito Ancheta, Marciano Ramos and
Mosqueda planned to break into the house of Dr. Belmonte. Mosqueda was to serve as the look-out. About two (2) to
three (3) days later, De Guzman, Mosqueda, Ancheta, together with Rudy Andrada and Rudy Casuga, again
gathered in a drinking spree and discussed their plan to enter the house of Dr. Belmonte. Accused-appellant Ramos
later arrived and joined them.
On November 28, 1992, the Belmonte couple left for Cabanatuan City. Dr. Belmonte instructed Lolita Valera, a trusted
househelp of his father, to accompany Teresa Hape, their househelper, in the house while they were away. In the
evening of November 30, 1992, De Guzman and Mosqueda went to the house of the Belmontes on the pretext of
delivering the water tank. In fact, their intention was to inspect the layout of the house. That night, they learned from
the househelpers that the Belmonte couple was scheduled to return from Cabanatuan City on December 1, 1992. Dr.
Belmonte did return on December 1, 1992, but his wife remained in Cabanatuan City to take care of her sick father.
Of the group, only De Guzman, Mosqueda, Ancheta and Ramos decided to pursue their plan. At around 7:00 in the
evening of December 2, 1992, the four proceeded to the house of Dr. Belmonte. They alighted in front of a waiting
shed near the said house. As planned, Mosqueda remained outside and acted as the look-out while De Guzman,
Ancheta and Ramos went inside. After 45 minutes, the white Kia car of Dr. Belmonte sped out of the gate. Mosqueda
hid himself as he was afraid he might be seen. But when he saw it was Ramos who was driving the car with De
Guzman and Ancheta seated at the back, he yelled at them, but the three did not hear him. In fact, Ramos, Ancheta
and De Guzman were in such a great hurry that Ramos even overshot a curve. In their haste, they left behind
Mosqueda.
At around 11:00 o'clock that same evening, Marilyn Serran saw a white Kia car pull up in front of her house in
Barangay Batakil, Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. She saw Ramos, at that time a member of the Pozorrubio police force,
alight from the car followed by De Guzman. When Serran woke up at 4:00 o'clock the next morning, she saw the
same white Kia car still parked in front of her house.
A short while later, Gervasio Serran came and asked Marilyn Serran about the car. Gervasio took a closer look at the
car, and saw a book and a kitchen knife inside. Suspecting the car to be carnapped, they reported the matter to the
police authorities. The policemen from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, including accused-appellant Ramos, came to
investigate.

The robbery and killing of Dr. Belmonte and Teresa Hape were discovered on December 3, 1992. The body of Dr.
Belmonte was found hanging with a scarf covering his mouth and his hands tied behind his back. Likewise, the dead
body of Teresa Hape was found, her hands and feet were tied, and a cavan of rice was used to cover her face and
shoulder. The cause of death of Dr. Belmonte was determined to be "asphyxia secondary to strangulation by ligature
and hanging; neurogenic (traumatic) shock due to gunshot wound and multiple stab wounds at the back."5 Likewise,
the cause of death of Teresa Hape was "asphyxia secondary to strangulation by ligature; hypovolemic shock
secondary to penetrating and perforating wounds of the superior vena cava and right lung due to multiple stab
wounds in the right anterior chest wall."6
Several attempts were made by the police to arrest accused-appellant De Guzman but he successfully evaded them.
Finally, with the cooperation of his sister Alicia de Guzman, accused-appellant was arrested in Cebu in January 1993.
Accused-appellant Ramos, on the other hand, was already a suspect so he was summoned to the PNP Command in
Lingayen, Pangasinan on January 20, 1993. Accused-turned-state-witness Mosqueda identified Ramos in a police
line-up.
In his defense, accused-appellant De Guzman testified that he last saw Belmonte on December 1, 1992 when he and
Paquito Ancheta went to his house and asked him to sign a check for the installation of the water tank. When they
arrived at the house of Dr. Belmonte, De Guzman saw Edwin Guadamor and a certain Benny inside drinking coffee.
After Dr. Belmonte signed the check, he asked De Guzman and Ancheta to wait for him outside. While outside, they
peeped inside the house and saw Edwin and Benny collaring Dr. Belmonte. De Guzman and Ancheta rushed inside
to help but Benny hit Ancheta on the leg causing him to fall down. Benny poked a gun at De Guzman. Edwin and
Benny then tied the hands of De Guzman, Ancheta, Dr. Belmonte and Hape with electric cords. Dr. Belmonte and
Hape were brought inside a room while De Guzman and Ancheta were left near the stairs. Thereafter, Edwin and
Benny proceeded to ransack the room. After an hour, Edwin and Benny went out of the room and placed De Guzman
and Ancheta at the backseat of a Kia car. Edwin and Benny went back inside the house. Thirty minutes later, Edwin
and Benny emerged from the house holding a white bag and a pair of white rubber shoes. Edwin drove the car and
when they reached a certain place in the lowlands, they released De Guzman and Ancheta with the instruction not to
go back to Baguio City ever. Despite the warning, De Guzman and Ancheta boarded a tricycle and proceeded back to
Baguio. De Guzman claimed he only learned of the death of Dr. Belmonte and Hape on December 5, 1992. Anent
Mosqueda's testimony against him, De Guzman said that the former had nurtured ill-feelings towards him since he
punched him sometime in 1989 or 1990.
Accused-appellant Ramos was a member of the PNP stationed at Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. He denied any
knowledge or participation in the crime, and proferred the defense of alibi. He testified that at the time of the
commission of the crime, he was in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. Specifically, from 12:00 o'clock noon of December 2,
1992 up to 8:00 o'clock in the morning of December 3, 1992, he was on duty as building and jail guard in Pozorrubio,
Pangasinan. He was not acquainted with De Guzman or Mosqueda. He claimed that he saw Mosqueda for the first
time during the police line-up.
The prosecution presented rebuttal evidence. SPO1 Manuel Francisco who testified that he was on duty at the
Pozorrubio Police Station from 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon up to 12:00 o'clock midnight of December 2, 1992. He
only saw Ramos at around 12:05 in the morning of December 3, 1992 when the latter relieved him from duty. Their
turn-over was reflected in the logbook. SPO4 Gloria Torio, administrative officer assigned at Pozorrubio Police
Station, testified that Ramos took the weekly detail she posted at the bulletin board of their station and refused to
return it to her.
Accused-appellants De Guzman and Ramos filed separate appeals to this Court. But as aforestated, De Guzman
later withdrew his appeal. Thus, this Court has to resolve only the appeal of accused-appellant Ramos. Accused
Paquito Ancheta still remains at large.
Accused-appellant Ramos claims that:
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE MOTION TO DISCHARGE ACCUSED FREDERICK
MOSQUEDA TO BE UTILIZED AS STATE WITNESS.
II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT MARCIANO RAMOS GUILTY OF THE
CRIME OF ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE DESPITE THE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE
HIS GUILT BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.7
This Court is not persuaded. Ergo, the conviction of accused-appellant Ramos for the crime of robbery with homicide
is affirmed.
The requirements for the discharge and utilization of an accused as a state witness are enumerated in Rule 119,
Section 9 of the Rules of Court, viz:
(a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
(b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except
the testimony of the accused;
(c) The testimony of the accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
(d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and
(e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Accused-appellant Ramos claims that requirements (a), (b) and (d) were not properly complied with. He insists there
is no absolute necessity for the testimony of Mosqueda and that if at all, his testimony would not constitute direct
evidence but only circumstantial. He likewise asserts that conspiracy having been clearly established among the
malefactors, Mosqueda was equally guilty with the rest of his co-accused. Although Mosqueda did not actually
participate in the robbery-killing since his alleged participation was limited to being a look-out, still, he is deemed to
have committed the same criminal acts by virtue of the conspiracy. As such, he is equally guilty and should not have
been discharged and utilized as a state witness. Since his discharge was erroneous, it follows that his testimony
should not have been given credence by the trial court.
While this Court agrees that some of the requirements under Section 9 of Rule 119 for the discharge of Mosqueda to
become state witness were not strictly and properly met, nonetheless, this Court does not subscribe to the suggestion
of the defense that Mosqueda's testimony should be disregarded. This issue has long been settled. Although the trial
court may have erred in discharging the accused, such error would not affect the competency and the quality of the
testimony of the defendant.8 The discharge of an accused under these circumstances is not reversible. Once his
discharge is effected, the legal consequence of acquittal follows unless the accused so discharged fails or refuses to
testify pursuant to his commitment. The order for his discharge may only be recalled in one instance, and that is when
he subsequently fails to testify against his co-accused.9
This Court so decreed in People v. De los Reyes:10
The reasons advanced for the discharge of Cresencio were that (a) the prosecution did not have direct
evidence with which to convict all the accused; (b) there was an absolute necessity for the testimony of
Cresencio Singue which could be corroborated in its material points; and (c) the said accused did not appear
to be the most guilty.
It may be observed that the trial court initially found these grounds to be well-taken and, consequently,
granted the discharge of Cresencio. On the other hand, his reinclusion in the Information made two and a
half (2 1/2) years after his discharge was based solely on the oral motion of the defense that he was the
most guilty considering that he had a written confession where he admitted that he and Faustino . . . were
the ones who entered the house they robbed, while their co-accused were left downstairs . . . .
However, in denying the motion to quash, the court a quo considered another ground, i.e., that Cresencio
"failed to comply with his commitment to act as a state witness" which, as the records will show, is not
correct. For, the truth of the matter is that no notice was given him for his appearance in court.

It bears stressing that under Sec. 10 of Rule 119, the only instance where the trial court may validly recall its
order discharging an accused to become a state witness is when he subsequently fails to testify against this
co-accused. That, certainly, is a violation of the condition for his discharge. But, once his discharge from the
Information is effected, the legal consequence of acquittal follows and persists unless the accused so
discharged fails or refuses to testify pursuant to his commitment. The fact that not all requisites for his
discharge are present is not a ground to recall the discharge order. Unless and until it is shown that the
discharged accused failed or refused to testify against his co-defendants, subsequent proof showing that
any or all of the conditions listed in Sec. 9, of Rule 119 were not fulfilled would not wipe away the resulting
acquittal. (Emphasis supplied).
Corrolarily, this same pronouncement was reiterated in People v. Armada,11 thus:
The discharge of an accused so he may turn state witness is expressly left to the sound discretion of the
court, subject to the conditions prescribed in Rule 115, Section 9, of the Rules of Court. It could be argued
that there was no absolute necessity for the testimony of Lorca, considering the eyewitness testimony of
Librando. Even so, Lorca's testimony may still be considered under our ruling in People v. Jamero (24 SCRA
206), viz:
This Court has time and again declared that even if the discharged witness should lack some of the
qualifications enumerated by Sec. 9, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, his testimony will not, for that
reason alone, be discarded or disregarded. In the discharge of a co-defendant, the court may
reasonably be expected to err; but such error in discharging an accused has been held not to be a
reversible one. This is upon the principle that such error of the court does not affect the
competency and the quality of the testimony of the discharged defendant.
Thus, although it appears that the court below erred in discharging accused Mosqueda, his recall at this time would
not be proper. If recalled, Mosqueda would be placed in double jeopardy because upon his discharge from the
Information, he is deemed to have been acquitted of the charges against him. Besides, there is no proper and valid
ground for his recall considering that he testified against his co-accused. To repeat, the only instance when a
discharged accused may be validly recalled is when he refuses to testify against his co-accused pursuant to his
commitment. Based on the foregoing, the protestation by the defense that "minus the testimony of state witness
Frederick Mosqueda whose discharge is in error, the only evidence left for the prosecution are the testimonies of
Marilyn Serran and Patricio Domantay,"12 would not hold water.
The defense, in its attempt at exculpation, draws the attention of this Court on the credibility of the witnesses
presented by the prosecution. It argues that their testimonies are unconvincing, unreliable and insufficient to sustain
conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
Again, the argument fails to persuade.
A close and careful scrutiny of the records would reveal that the trial court did not err in its assessment of the facts
and the credibility of the witnesses. As such, this Court finds no compelling reason to disturb and depart from such
findings. On the issue of credibility, we quote with approval the trial court when it held:
While the state witness may be himself a culprit, and, therefore, is likely to put the blame on his co-accused
rather than himself, yet, it appears from a perusal of his testimony that the same is sincere and given
unhesitatingly and in a straightforward manner. Mosqueda's testimony is full of details which by their nature
could not have been the result of deliberate afterthought. (People v. Cuya, G.R. No. 33046, February 18,
1986) His demeanor, as observed by this Court, exudes an assurance that he is telling the truth unlike that
of the other accused which engenders suspicion.13
In the face of his positive identification, the defense of alibi interposed by accused-appellant Ramos fails in the first
instance. Besides, his alibi was not air-tight. He claims to have been in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan at the time of the
incident. But the prosecution successfully rebutted this defense by presenting the testimony of SPO1 Manuel
Francisco, that accused-appellant was nowhere in the vicinity of their police station at the time of the commission of
the crime. In fact, accused-appellant Ramos reported late for duty. Also, the distance between Pozorrubio,
Pangasinan and Baguio City can be traversed by car such that accused-appellant could be in Baguio City at 7:00 in
the evening and be back in Pozorrubio at 11:00 o'clock of the same evening. Accused-appellant did not present any

satisfactory evidence to prove that he was not at the crime scene at the time it was committed and that it would be
highly impossible for him to be in that place at that time. Accused-appellant's defense of alibi must therefore fail.
Art. 294 of the Revised Penal Code provides in pertinent part:
Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence or intimidation against any person shall suffer:
(1) The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of robbery, the crime of
homicide shall have been committed, or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or
intentional mutilation or arson. . . .
This Court agrees with the trial court that although treachery, use of motor vehicle, dwelling, and nocturnity attended
the robbery-killing, still, the proper imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua considering that at the time of the
commission of the crime, the imposition of the death penalty was legally proscribed.
However, we do not agree with the award given by the trial court for loss of earnings. As established, Dr. Belmonte
was earning an average of P150,000.00 as practicing physician; P20,000.00 as professor of medicine per month or
P2,088,000.00 per year. It was likewise established that Dr. Belmonte was only thirty-five (35) years old at the time of
his death. Loss of earning capacity is computed based on the following formula:14
Net Earning
Capacity

Life expectancy
[2/3 (80 - age at death)]

Gross Annual
Income(GAI)

Living expenses
(50% of GAI)

[(2/3) (80-35)]

P2,088,000.00

P1,044,000.00

[(2/3) (45)]

P1,044,000.00

30

P1,044,000.00

P31,320,000.00

Thus, the award for loss of earnings is reduced to P31,320,000.00.


As regards the award for actual damages, the same is reduced from P274,809.00 to P113,709.75 since this is the
amount that was proved and duly receipted.1wphi1.nt
The award for moral damages to the legal heirs of Dr. Belmonte is likewise reduced to P50,000.00, in line with
prevailing jurisprudence. The lower court should have awarded moral damages for the killing of Teresa Hape
considering its finding that aggravating circumstances attended the robbery-killing, in accordance with Article 2230 of
the Civil Code. Thus, the award of P50,000.00 as moral damages is warranted under the circumstances. Likewise,
the award for exemplary damages is reduced to P20,000.00 each for the heirs of Dr. Belmonte and Teresa Hape.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, Branch 7, finding accused-appellant Marciano
Ramos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with homicide and sentencing him to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS, as follows:
Accused-appellant is ordered:
1. To restore to the legal heirs of the victim, Dr. Belmonte, the stolen items enumerated in the appealed
decision;
2. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Dr. Belmonte and Teresa Hape in the amount of
P50,000.00 each victim;
3. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Dr. Belmonte for consequential damages as follows:
a) P31,320,000.00 representing the lost earnings of Dr. Belmonte;

b) P113,709.75 representing actual and/or compensatory damages;


c) P50,000.00 as moral damages;
d) P20,000.00 as exemplary damages;
4. To indemnify jointly and solidarily the legal heirs of Teresa Hape P50,000.00 as moral damages and
P20,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Costs against the accused.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 142848

June 30, 2006

EUGENE C. YU, Petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE PRESIDING JUDGE, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF TAGAYTAY CITY, BRANCH 18, THE
HONORABLE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ASSISTANT PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR
JOSE M. VELASCO, SEC. TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, RODOLFO OCHOA and REYNALDO DE LOS SANTOS
A.K.A. "Engine," Respondents.
DECISION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
In the evening of 14 November 1994, Atty. Eugene Tan, former President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) and his driver Eduardo Constantino were abducted by several persons in Alabang, Muntinlupa, and brought
somewhere in Cavite where they were both shot to death. At about 5:00 oclock in the afternoon of 17 November
1994, the bodies of the two victims were dug up in a shallow grave at Barangay Malinta, Sampaloc 2, Dasmarias
Cavite.1 Charged to investigate the abduction and killing was the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC). After
having conducted a thorough investigation of the case, the PACC filed charges before the Department of Justice
(DOJ) entitled, "Task Force Cabakid v. Pedro Lim, Bonifacio Roxas, Sgt. Edgar Allan Abalon, Mariano Hizon, Eugenio
Hizon and John Does." The same was docketed as I-S. No. 94-557 and was assigned to a panel of Senior State
Prosecutors of the DOJ. Later events that transpired as narrated by herein petitioner Eugene Yu are not disputed.
On December 13, 1994, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Resolution (Annex "C", ibid.) in the preliminary
investigation of the case, docketed as I.S. No. 94-557 finding probable cause against Messrs. Pedro Lim, Bonifacio
Rojas, Capt. Alfredo Abad, Toto Mirasol, Venerando Ozores, Mariano Hizon, Eugenio Hizon and private respondents
de los Santos and Ochoa for the kidnapping and murder of the late Atty. Eugene Tan and his driver, Eduardo
Constantino. Petitioner and his wife, Patricia Lim-Yu, were also named respondents in I.S. No. 94-557. The charges
against them however were dropped for lack of evidence to establish probable cause. Thereafter, an information was
filed against several accused, namely private respondents Rodolfo Ochoa and Reynaldo de los Santos among
others, before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, of Tagaytay City presided by respondent judge. On December 16
and 17, 1994 after the information was filed and while under custody of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission
(PACC), private respondents Ochoa and de los Santos executed separate sworn statements (Annexes "D" and "E,",
ibid.) implicating petitioner in the abduction and killing of Atty. Eugene Tan and Eduardo Constantino. The PACC refiled the complaint docketed as I.S. No. 94-614 for murder and kidnapping against petitioner. During the preliminary
investigation, petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the charges, citing that the sworn statements of private respondents
were not only inadmissible in evidence but also failed to establish probable cause against him. On January 30, 1995,
the DOJ investigating panel composed of Senior State Prosecutors Henrick Guingoyon and Ferdinand Abesamis
denied petitioners motion to dismiss (Annex "F", ibid.). Thereafter, three (3) separate informations were filed against
petitioner before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, of Tagaytay City. Simultaneously, petitioner filed with the
aforesaid court an omnibus motion to determine probable cause, to deny issuance of warrant of arrest and to quash
information (Annex "G", ibid.).

On December 8, 1995, respondent judge issued a resolution (Annex "H," ibid.), the dispositive portion reads:
xxxx
"WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, this Court finds that probable cause exists against accused Eugene Yu
as an accomplice in the instant cases, and the prosecution is accordingly directed to amend the informations filed in
these cases for the inclusion of the same accused as an accomplice within ten (10) days upon receipt of a copy
hereof. As a consequence, let a warrant for the arrest of Eugene Yu be issued in these cases and bail for his
provisional liberty is hereby fixed at P60,000.00 each in theses cases.
"x x x x
"SO ORDERED." (Rollo, pp. 6; 118-119)
Both the prosecution and the petitioner filed their respective motions for reconsideration of the aforequoted resolution.
The prosecution sought to maintain the original informations charging petitioner as principal, while the latter sought
the dismissal of the cases against him for lack of probable cause. Both motions were denied in an order of the court a
quo dated February 6, 1996 (Annex "I", ibid.).
In a petition for certiorari, docketed before the Supreme Court as G.R. No. 124380 entitled "People of the Philippines
v. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, et al.," the prosecution impugned the Resolution dated December 8, 1995 and the
Order dated February 6, 1996. The petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court in its Resolution dated May 14,
1996. The prosecution refiled the same titled petition before the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No.
42208, "where it is currently pending, entitled: People of the Philippines vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, et al."
In the meantime, the prosecution filed a "Petition to Discharge as State Witnesses and Exclude from the Information
accused Ochoa and de los Santos" on April 17, 1996 (Annex "J"). Petitioner opposed the motion. On March 6, 1997,
respondent judge issued the impugned order, thus:
"WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises and considerations, this Court hereby resolves to GRANT the
Petition (to Discharge as State Witnesses & Exclude from the Information Accused Ochoa & de los Santos) filed by
the prosecution for being impressed with merit, and, accordingly, the same accused are hereby ordered discharged
and excluded from the information filed in these cases as State Witnesses.
"SO ORDERED." (Annex "A", p. 31)
Petitioner, who is one of the accused in the aforementioned criminal cases, claims that the orders were issued by
public respondent judge with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction, claiming that
there is no legal basis or justification to discharge as state witnesses accused Rodolfo Ochoa and Reynaldo de los
Santos (hereinafter referred to as private respondents).2
From the Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tagaytay City, Branch 18 dated 6 March 1997, petitioner filed a
Petition for Certiorari and prohibition before the Court of Appeals.3 In a decision4 dated 30 September 1999, the Court
of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack of merit. The Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied in a
resolution dated 4 April 2000.5
Essentially, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was no necessity for a hearing to determine a persons
qualification as a state witness after the DOJ had attested to his qualification. Republic Act No. 6981,6 Witness
Protection and Security Benefit Program (WPSBP), conferred upon the DOJ the sole authority to determine whether
or not an accused is qualified for admission into the program. The appellate court held that under Section 12 of
Republic Act No. 6981, upon the filing by the prosecution of a petition to discharge an accused from the information, it
is mandatory for the court to order the discharge and exclusion of the accused.7
From this adverse decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals, petitioner filed the instant petition.

The following issues are raised for resolution8 :


I. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT HELD THAT THE DISCHARGE
OF AN ACCUSED IS NOT A JUDICIAL FUNCTION.
II WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER THAT
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DISCHARGED THE ACCUSED DESPITE THE
FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PRESENT EVIDENCE TO SHOW THAT THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS
ARE ENTITLED TO BE DISCHARGED AS STATE WITNESS.
Petitioner maintains that since the private respondents were already charged along with the other accused including
him (petitioner) before they were admitted to the WPSBP, their admission is a judicial prerogative which requires prior
determination by the trial court of their qualification as state witnesses, in accordance with Section 17, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.
Petitioner further asserts that the case of Webb v. De Leon,9 which the RTC relied on in granting the discharge of the
private respondents and their admission to the WPSBP, does not apply. In that case, Jessica Alfaro was not charged
as a respondent before her application and admission to the WPSBP. Thus, the issue of whether or not she can be
discharged from the information upon the filing of the petition for discharge never arose. On the other hand, petitioner
contends in this case that the private respondents were already charged along with the other accused, including him,
before they were admitted to the WPSBP and discharged as an accused to be utilized as a state witness. Petitioner
argues that if this were to be allowed, the same is tantamount to permitting the prosecution to supplant with its own
the courts exercise of discretion on how a case over which it has acquired jurisdiction, will proceed.
The argument of petitioner fails to persuade.
Pertinent provision of Republic Act No. 6981 employed by the prosecution in the discharge of the private respondents
reads:
SEC. 3. Admission into the Program. Any person who has witnessed or has knowledge or information on the
commission of a crime and has testified or is testifying or about to testify before any judicial or quasi-judicial body, or
before any investigating authority, may be admitted into the Program:
Provided, That:
a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal
Code, or its equivalent under special laws;
b) his testimony can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
c) he or any member of his family within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity is subjected to
threats to his life or bodily injury or there is a likelihood that he will be killed, forced, intimidated, harassed or
corrupted to prevent him from testifying, or to testify falsely, or evasively, because or on account of his
testimony; and
d) he is not a law enforcement officer, even if he would be testifying against other law enforcement officers.
In such a case, only the immediate members of his family may avail themselves of the protection provided
for under this Act.
If the Department, after examination of said applicant and other relevant facts, is convinced that the requirements of
this Act and its implementing rules and regulations have been complied with, it shall admit said applicant to the
Program, require said witness to execute a sworn statement detailing his knowledge or information on the
commission of the crime, and thereafter issue the proper certification. For purposes of this Act, any such person
admitted to the Program shall be known as the Witness.

xxxx
SEC. 10. State Witness. Any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a witness
for the State, can apply and, if qualified as determined in this Act and by the Department, shall be admitted into the
Program whenever the following circumstances are present:
a) the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code
or its equivalent under special laws;
b) there is absolute necessity for his testimony;
c) there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed;
d) his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;
e) he does not appear to be most guilty; and
f) he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
An accused discharged from an information or criminal complaint by the court in order that he may be a State
Witness pursuant to Sections 9 and 10 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court may upon his petition be admitted
to the Program if he complies with the other requirements of this Act. Nothing in this Act shall prevent the discharge of
an accused, so that he can be used as a State Witness under Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.
On the other hand, Rule 119, Section 17, of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, upon which petitioner relies
reads:
Section 17. Discharge of accused to be state witness. When two or more persons are jointly charged with the
commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more
of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after requiring
the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support
of the discharge, the court is satisfied that:
(a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested;
(b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except
the testimony of said accused;
(c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
(d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and
(e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies the motion
for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence.
The discharge of an accused under Republic Act No. 6981 as availed of by the prosecution in favor of the private
respondents, is distinct and separate from the discharge of an accused under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised
Rules on Criminal Procedure.
The discharge of an accused to be a state witness under Republic Act No. 6981 is only one of the modes for a
participant in the commission of a crime to be a state witness. Rule 119, Section 17, of the Revised Rules on Criminal

Procedure, is another mode of discharge. The immunity provided under Republic Act No. 6981 is granted by the DOJ
while the other is granted by the court.
Rule 119, Section 17, of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, contemplates a situation where the information
has been filed and the accused had been arraigned and the case is undergoing trial. The discharge of an accused
under this rule may be ordered upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, that is, at any stage of the
proceedings, from the filing of the information to the time the defense starts to offer any evidence. 10
On the other hand, in the discharge of an accused under Republic Act No. 6981, only compliance with the
requirement of Section 14, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure11 is required but not the requirement
of Rule 119, Section 17.
More to the point is the recent case of Soberano v. People12 where this Court held:
An amendment of the information made before plea which excludes some or one of the accused must be made only
upon motion by the prosecutor, with notice to the offended party and with leave of court in compliance with Section
14, Rule 110. Section 14, Rule 110 does not qualify the grounds for the exclusion of the accused. Thus, said provision
applies in equal force when the exclusion is sought on the usual ground of lack of probable cause, or when it is for
utilization of the accused as state witness, as in this case, or on some other ground.
At this level, the procedural requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 on the need for the prosecution to present evidence
and the sworn statement of each state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge do not yet come into play. This
is because, as correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, the determination of who should be criminally charged in
court is essentially an executive function, not a judicial one. x x x. (Underscoring supplied.)
In this connection, Section 12 of Republic Act No. 698113 provides that the issuance of a certification of admission into
the program shall be given full faith by the provincial or city prosecutor who is required not to include the witness in
the criminal complaint or information, and if included, to petition for his discharge in order that he can be utilized as a
state witness. This provision justifies the regularity of the procedure adopted by the prosecution for the discharge of
the private respondents.
The case of Webb v. De Leon,14 reiterated in the subsequent case of People v. Peralta,15 is quite elucidating in this
regard.
Petitioners argument lacks appeal for it lies on the faulty assumption that the decision whom to prosecute is a judicial
function, the sole prerogative of courts and beyond executive and legislative interference. In truth, the prosecution of
crimes appertains to the executive department of government whose principal power and responsibility is to see that
our laws are faithfully executed. A necessary component of this power to execute our laws is the right to prosecute
their violators. The right to prosecute vests the prosecutor with a wide range of discretion the discretion of whether,
what and whom to charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors which are best appreciated by
prosecutors. We thus hold that it is not constitutionally impermissible for Congress to enact R.A. No. 6981 vesting in
the Department of Justice the power to determine who can qualify as a witness in the program and who shall be
granted immunity from prosecution. Section 9 of Rule 119 does not support the proposition that the power to choose
who shall be a state witness is an inherent judicial prerogative. Under this provision, the court is given the power to
discharge a state witness only because it has already acquired jurisdiction over the crime and the accused. The
discharge of an accused is part of the exercise of jurisdiction but is not a recognition of an inherent judicial function.
Moreover, the Rules of Court have never been interpreted to be beyond change by legislation designed to improve
the administration of our justice system. R.A. No. 6981 is one of the much sought penal reform laws to help
government in its uphill fight against crime, one certain cause of which is the reticence of witnesses to testify. The
rationale for the law is well put by the Department of Justice, viz: "Witnesses, for fear of reprisal and economic
disclocation, usually refuse to appear and testify in the investigation/prosecution of criminal complaints/cases.
Because of such refusal, criminal complaints/cases have been dismissed for insufficiency and/or lack of evidence.
For a more effective administration of criminal justice, there was a necessity to pass a law protecting witnesses and
granting them certain rights and benefits to ensure their appearance in investigative bodies/courts. Petitioner Webbs
challenge to the validity of R.A. No. 6981 cannot therefore succeed.

Anent the second issue, petitioner argues that the petition to discharge is not supported by any proof or evidence. He
claims that the prosecution did not establish that the private respondents have complied with the requisites of
Republic Act No. 6981 because the certificate of admission from the DOJ showing that the private respondents were
qualified, and the memorandum of agreement between the DOJ and private respondents, as required by Section
516 of Republic Act No. 6981, were not presented before the trial court.
We reject the argument for being vacuous.
As found by the DOJ, based on the extrajudicial statements executed by the private respondents regarding their
participation in the abduction and killing of Atty. Eugene Tan and his driver, it appears that they were included in an
alleged military operation and unaware that the persons they abducted were innocent civilians because they were
misled by their military superiors into believing that these individuals were unnamed communist rebels. From their
account, private respondents claim to have been oblivious that the persons subject of their surveillance were to be
abducted and subsequently killed.
The rule prevailing in this jurisdiction is that the discharge of an accused to be utilized as a state witness because he
does not appear to be the most guilty, is highly factual in nature. The discretionary judgment of the trial court on this
factual issue is seldom interfered with by the appellate courts except in case of grave abuse of discretion,17 which we
find not present in the case at bar.
On the issue of failure of the prosecution to present the sworn statement and memorandum of agreement between
the private respondents and the DOJ, there is no requirement under Republic Act No. 6891 that the same be first
presented in court before an accused may be admitted to the WPSBP. Moreover, the DOJ which is tasked to
implement the provisions of Republic Act No. 6981, has determined that the private respondents have satisfied the
requirements for admission under the WPSBP. This interpretation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6981 by the
DOJ deserves the respect of the court under the principle that the determination of a government agency tasked to
implement a statute is accorded great respect and ordinarily controls the construction of the courts.18
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated 30 September
1999 and 4 April 2000, respectively, are AFFIRMED. This case is ordered REMANDED to the
Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City, Branch 18, for continuation of hearing to its conclusion with deliberate dispatch.
Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 124171

March 18, 2002

LETICIA R. MERCIALES, petitioner,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, JOSELITO NUADA, PAT.
EDWIN MORAL, ADONIS NIEVES, ERNESTO LOBETE, DOMIL GRAGEDA, and RAMON "POL"
FLORES,respondents.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
Petitioner seeks the reversal of the Decision of the Court of Appeals1 in CA-G.R. SP No. 37341, denying her petition
to annul the Order of the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City, Branch 8,2 in Criminal Case Nos. 6307-6312, which
dismissed the charge of rape with homicide based on a demurrer to evidence filed by private respondents, accused
therein.
The antecedent facts as succinctly synthesized by the respondent court are as follows:

On August 12, 1993, Criminal Case Nos. 6307, 6308, 6309, 6310, 6311, and 6312, for rape with homicide, in
connection with the death of one Maritess Ricafort Merciales, were filed against the private respondents,
Joselito Nuada, Pat. Edwin Moral, Adonis Nieves, Ernesto Lobete, Domil Grageda and Ramon "Pol" Flores,
before the Regional Trial Court, Fifth Judicial Region, Legaspi City. The said cases were consolidated in
Branch 8, presided over by the respondent judge.
During the trial, after presenting seven witnesses, the public prosecutor filed a motion for the discharge of
accused Joselito Nuada, in order that he may be utilized as a state witness. However, the prosecution
contended that it was not required to present evidence to warrant the discharge of accused Nuada, since the
latter had already been admitted into the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice.
Consequently, the respondent judge denied the motion for discharge, for failure of the prosecution to present
evidence as provided for by Section 9, Rule 119 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure.
On December 22, 1993, the prosecution filed a petition3 for certiorari [G.R. No. 113273-78] before the
Supreme Court, questioning the respondent judge's denial of the motion to discharge the accused Nuada.
Despite the fact that the petition did not contain a prayer for a temporary restraining order, the trial judge did
not set the case for further hearing so as to give the prosecution time to secure such temporary restraining
order from the Supreme Court.
On July 13, 1994, herein private respondents filed a motion to set the case for hearing, invoking their
constitutional right to speedy trial. The respondent judge granted the motion, and set the case for hearing on
July 29, 1994.
On the said date, the prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration, instead of presenting further evidence.
The respondent Judge postponed the hearing and reset the same for August 9, 1994.
On August 9, 1994, again the prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration, invoking its pending petition for
certiorari with the Supreme Court. The private respondents, thru counsel, objected to any further resetting as
this would constitute a violation of their right to a speedy trial. The respondent judge called for a recess so
as to let the prosecution decide whether or not to present an NBI agent, who was then present, to prove the
due execution of the accused Nuada's extrajudicial confession.
However, after the recess, the public prosecutor declined to present the NBI agent, and instead manifested
that he was not presenting any further evidence. The defense then moved that the cases be deemed
submitted for decision, and asked leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence.
On August 29, 1994, the Solicitor General filed [in G.R. No. 113273-78] a motion for issuance of a writ of
preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order with the Supreme Court, to enjoin the respondent judge
from proceeding with the resolution of the case. However, on September 19, 1994, the motion was denied
by the Supreme Court.
In due time, the accused filed their demurrer to evidence x x x.4
On October 21, 1994, the trial court issued the assailed Order, the dispositive portion of which reads:
For lack of sufficient evidence to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, all the accused in
all these cases are hereby ACQUITTED and the cases filed against them are hereby DISMISSED. The
accused in all these cases, being detention prisoners, are hereby ordered RELEASED from detention,
unless they are being detained for some other legal cause.
SO ORDERED.5
Petitioner Leticia Merciales, who is the mother of the victim in the said criminal cases, filed before the respondent
Court of Appeals a petition to annul the foregoing Order of the trial court. However, the Court of Appeals dismissed
the petition on October 4, 1995.

A motion for reconsideration was denied on March 6, 1996. Hence, the instant petition based on the ground that:
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT REFUSED TO NULLIFY THE
ORDER DATED OCTOBER 21, 1994 OF THE TRIAL COURT FOR BEING NULL AND VOID ON THE
GROUND THAT THE TRIAL JUDGE TOLERATED AND/OR COMMITTED INJUSTICE BY FAILING TO
REQUIRE THE PROSECUTION TO PRESENT ALL THEIR EVIDENCE INSTEAD OF SUPPRESSING
THEM APPARENTLY TO FAVOR THE ACCUSED IN VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF
THE PEOPLE TO DUE PROCESS, OUSTING THE TRIAL COURT OF ITS JURISDICTION. 6
The case was set for oral argument on December 11, 2001. Counsel for petitioner and the Solicitor General
appeared. During the oral argument, the Solicitor General manifested that he was joining the cause of petitioner in
order to prevent a miscarriage of justice. The Court directed the parties to submit their respective memoranda in
amplification of the points raised during the oral argument.
Petitioner maintains that the reopening of the criminal case will not violate the accused's right to double jeopardy.
More particularly, she ascribes prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the undue haste which attended the
prosecution's premature resting and the trial court's grant of the demurrer to evidence when the presentation of the
evidence for the prosecution has not been completed.
Private respondent Ramon Flores filed his Memorandum, arguing that petitioner, being the private complainant in the
criminal case below, has no legal standing to appeal the acquittal of private respondents; that there was no extrinsic
fraud, abuse of discretion or jurisdictional defect to warrant either a petition for annulment of judgment or certiorari;
and that the reopening of the criminal case will violate the accused's right against double jeopardy.
It is true that a private complainant cannot bring an action questioning a judgment of acquittal, except insofar as the
civil aspect of the criminal case is concerned.7 In the case at bar, we agree with petitioner that this issue was
rendered moot when the Solicitor General, in representation of the People, changed his position and joined the cause
of petitioner, thus fulfilling the requirement that all criminal actions shall be prosecuted under the direction and control
of the public prosecutor.8
In any event, petitioner has an interest in the maintenance of the criminal prosecution, being the mother of the
deceased rape victim. The right of offended parties to appeal an order of the trial court which deprives them of due
process has always been recognized, the only limitation being that they cannot appeal any adverse ruling if to do so
would place the accused in double jeopardy.9
The criminal case below was for rape with homicide. Although the public prosecutor presented seven witnesses, none
of these actually saw the commission of the crime. It was only Joselito Nuada, one of the accused, who came forward
and expressed willingness to turn state witness. His testimony was vital for the prosecution, as it would provide the
only eyewitness account of the accused's complicity in the crime. The trial court required the public prosecutor to
present evidence to justify Nuada's discharge as a state witness, but the latter insisted that there was no need for
such proof since Nuada had already been admitted into the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice.
The public prosecutor's obstinate refusal to present the required evidence prompted the trial court to deny the motion
to discharge Nuada.
The prosecution elevated the matter to the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari. Meanwhile, the accused moved
to set the case for hearing, invoking their constitutional right to speedy trial. The trial court granted the motion. The
public prosecutor moved for a continuance, and the trial court acceded. At the next scheduled hearing, however, the
trial court denied a similar motion by the prosecution in view of the objection of the accused. The trial court directed
the public prosecutor to present Atty. Carlos S. Caabay, the NBI Agent who took Nuada's extrajudicial confession. At
the resumption of the hearing, the public prosecutor declared that he was resting the prosecution's case, knowing
fully well that the evidence he has presented was not sufficient to convict the accused. Consequently, the ensuing
demurrer to evidence filed by the accused was granted by the trial court.
It is clear from the foregoing that the public prosecutor was guilty of serious nonfeasance. It is the duty of the public
prosecutor to bring the criminal proceedings for the punishment of the guilty.10 Concomitant with this is the duty to

pursue the prosecution of a criminal action and to represent the public interest. A crime is an offense against the
State, and hence is prosecuted in the name of the People of the Philippines. For this reason, Section 5 of Rule 110
provides that "all criminal actions either commenced by complaint or by information shall be prosecuted under the
direction and control of the fiscal x x x." As the representative of the State, the public prosecutor has the right and the
duty to take all steps to protect the rights of the People in the trial of an accused.11 If the public prosecutor commits a
nonfeasance in refusing to perform a specific duty imposed on him by law, he can be compelled by an action
for mandamus.12
In the case at bar, the public prosecutor knew that he had not presented sufficient evidence to convict the accused.
Yet, despite repeated moves by the accused for the trial court to continue hearing the case, he deliberately failed to
present an available witness and thereby allowed the court to declare that the prosecution has rested its case. In this
sense, he was remiss in his duty to protect the interest of the offended parties. More specifically, the public
prosecutor in this case was guilty of blatant error and abuse of discretion, thereby causing prejudice to the offended
party. Indeed, the family of the deceased victim, Maritess Merciales, could do nothing during the proceedings, having
entrusted the conduct of the case in the hands of the said prosecutor. All they could do was helplessly watch as the
public prosecutor, who was under legal obligation to pursue the action on their behalf, renege on that obligation and
refuse to perform his sworn duty.
Indeed, Rule 119, Section 9 (now Section 17) of the Rules of Court expressly requires the presentation of evidence in
support of the prosecution's prayer for the discharge of an accused to be a state witness, viz:
When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the
prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with
their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when after requiring the prosecution to present
evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge,
xxx xxx xxx.
By refusing to comply with the trial court's order to present evidence, the public prosecutor grossly violated the
above-quoted rule. Moreover, the public prosecutor violated his bounden duty to protect the interest of the offended
party, at least insofar as the criminal aspect is concerned. After the trial court denied his motion to discharge Nuada
as a state witness, he should have proceeded to complete the evidence of the prosecution by other means. Instead,
he willfully and deliberately refused to present an available witness, i.e., the NBI Agent who was present in court on
that date and time. The public prosecutor was duty-bound to exhaust all available proofs to establish the guilt of the
accused and bring them to justice for their offense against the injured party.
Likewise guilty for serious nonfeasance was the trial court. Notwithstanding its knowledge that the evidence for the
prosecution was insufficient to convict, especially after the public prosecutor tenaciously insisted on utilizing Nuada
as state witness, the trial court passively watched as the public prosecutor bungled the case. The trial court was well
aware of the nature of the testimonies of the seven prosecution witnesses that have so far been presented. Given this
circumstance, the trial court, motu proprio, should have called additional witnesses for the purpose of questioning
them himself in order to satisfy his mind with reference to particular facts or issues involved in the case.13
Based on the foregoing, it is evident that petitioner was deprived of her day in court. Indeed, it is not only the State,
but more so the offended party, that is entitled to due process in criminal cases. Inasmuch as the acquittal of the
accused by the court a quo was done without regard to due process of law, the same is null and void. It is as if there
was no acquittal at all, and the same cannot constitute a claim for double jeopardy.14
By contending that the challenged Decision is void for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the petition does not violate the right of the accused against
double jeopardy. It is elementary that double jeopardy attaches only when the following elements concur: (1)
the accused are charged under a complaint or information sufficient in form and substance to sustain their
conviction; (2) the court has jurisdiction; (3) the accused have been arraigned and have pleaded; and (4)
they are convicted or acquitted, or the case is dismissed without their consent.

Thus, even assuming that a writ of certiorari is granted, the accused would not be placed in double jeopardy
because, from the very beginning, the lower tribunal had acted without jurisdiction. Precisely, any ruling
issued without jurisdiction is, in legal contemplation, necessarily null and void and does not exist.15
Otherwise put, the dismissal of the case below was invalid for lack of a fundamental prerequisite, that is, due
process.16 In rendering the judgment of dismissal, the trial judge in this case acted without or in excess of jurisdiction,
for a judgment which is void for lack of due process is equivalent to excess or lack of jurisdiction.17Indeed,
"jurisdiction" is the right to hear and determine, not to determine without hearing.18
Lack of jurisdiction is one of the grounds for the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and
resolutions of Regional Trial Courts.19 Hence, the remedy taken by petitioner before the Court of Appeals was correct.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 37341 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The Order dismissing Criminal Case Nos. 6307-6312 isANNULLED,
and this case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City, Branch 8, for further proceedings. The
public prosecutor is ORDERED to complete the presentation of all available witnesses for the prosecution.
SO ORDERED.\
G.R. No. 165996 October 17, 2005
RODOLFO G. VALEnCIA, Petitioner
vs.
THE SANDIGANBAYAN, Respondent.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court assails the June 14, 2004 Order1 of respondent
Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 25160, which denied petitioners motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence
and set the case for presentation of evidence for the prosecution; as well as its July 28, 2004 Resolution2 denying
petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The undisputed facts show that on February 10, 1999, petitioner Rodolfo G. Valencia, then governor of Oriental
Mindoro was charged before the Sandiganbayan with violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, the
Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The information filed against petitioner reads:
That on or about December 1, 1992, or sometime prior or subsequent thereto in the Province of Oriental Mindoro,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, a public officer, being then
the Governor of the Province of Oriental Mindoro, while in the performance of his official functions, committing the
offense in relation to his office, and taking advantage of his official position, acting with manifest partiality, evident bad
faith or gross inexcusable negligence, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and criminally cause undue injury to the
Province of Oriental Mindoro, and at the same time give unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to one
CRESENTE UMBAO, a candidate who ran and lost in the 1992 election, by then and there appointing said Cresente
Umbao as Sangguniang Bayan member of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, within the prohibitive period of one (1) year after
an election, in flagrant violation of Sec. 6, Art IX B of the Constitution, to the damage and prejudice of the Province of
Oriental Mindoro and to the government as a whole.3
Upon arraignment on April 13, 1999, petitioner pleaded not guilty.4
On March 24, 2003, the parties submitted a Joint Stipulation of Facts, to wit:

1. Mr. Rodolfo G. Valencia, had been the Governor of the Province of Oriental Mindoro, for having won in the
gobernatorial race in the May 1992 local and provincial election;
2. During the 1992 election, Mr. Cresente Umbao of Pola, Oriental, Mindoro also ran for the position of councilor in
the Municipality of Pola, Oriental Mindoro but he lost;
3. On October 17, 1992, Councilor Antonio Mercene, Jr. of Pola, Oriental, Mindoro died thus creating a permanent
vacancy in the membership position of Sanguniang Bayan of Pola, Oriental Mindoro.
4. On December 1, 1992 then Governor Rodolfo G. Valencia of Oriental, Mindoro, appointed Cresente Umbao to the
position of a councilor in the Municipal Council of Pola, Oriental Mindoro on the vacancy left by the death of Councilor
Mercene.
CONTENTION/ISSUES
The Prosecution contends that this appointment is in violation of Sec. 3(e) of R.A. 3019 as it gives among other,
unwarranted benefit to Mr. Cresente Umbao who is disqualified to be appointed within a period of one year after
having lost in May 1992 local election for councilor, while the accused, then Governor Rodolfo Valencia, maintains
that the appointment of Lumbao was in the performance of his duty and that it was made in good faith pursuant to
Sec. 45, Chapter 2, Title 2, of the Local Government Code (R.A. 7160).
The Parties reserve their rights to present documentary evidences as the need arise during the trial.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the parties respectfully prays that this stipulation of facts be well taken by the
Honorable Sandiganbayan for pre-trial purposes.5
On March 26, 2003, the Sandiganbayan directed the parties to sign the Joint Stipulation of Facts, thus
The Court orders both counsels and the accused to sign each and every page of the Joint Stipulation of Facts.
Thereafter, let a pre-trial order be issued on the bases of the agreement of both parties as embodied in this Joint
Stipulation of Facts.6
The Joint Stipulation of Facts however remained unsigned by petitioner. Only the signature of the Special Prosecutor
and petitioners counsel appear on the last page thereof.
On January 12, 2004, Prosecutor Danilo F. Salindong rested the case based on the Joint Stipulation of Facts and
waived the presentation of testimonial or documentary evidence for the prosecution.7
Thereafter, petitioner filed on January 19, 2004 a Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence because the
prosecution failed to present, mark or offer evidence that would substantiate the charge against him. Petitioner
asserted that the Joint Stipulation of Facts is inadmissible because it lacks his signature. Even if the same be
admitted, the information is dismissable for failure of the prosecution to submit evidence to establish the injury caused
to the government and the presence of manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence in the
appointment of Cresente Umbao, which are among the essential elements of the crime of violation of Section 3(e) of
RA No. 3019.8
The prosecution, now represented by Prosecutor Agnes B. Autencio-Daquis, filed an Opposition/Comment alleging
that petitioners Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence is premature because the prosecution has yet to
formally offer the Joint Stipulation of Facts.9
On February 20, 2004, the Sandiganbayan reiterated its March 26, 2003 Resolution directing petitioner and counsels
to sign the Joint Stipulation of Facts.10 Petitioner filed a Manifestation with Motion for Reconsideration11claiming that
his former counsel was not authorized to enter into any agreement and that he came to know of the existence of said
stipulations only on January 12, 2004.

On March 11, 2004, the Sandiganbayan issued a Pre-trial Order12 embodying the Joint Stipulation of Facts.
Considering petitioners refusal to acknowledge the Joint Stipulation of Facts or to sign the Pre-trial Order, the
Sandiganbayan issued the assailed June 14, 2004 Order recalling the Pre-trial Order; denying the motion for leave to
file demurrer; and setting the case for presentation of the prosecutions evidence, thus
This afternoon is supposed to be the initial presentation of the defense evidence. Prosecutor Danilo F. Salindong,
former handling prosecutor of this case, rested his case on the basis of the Pre-Trial Order issued by this Court.
However, accused Rodolfo Valencia refused to sign the pre-trial order as per his motion for reconsideration, to which
Prosecutor Agnes Autencio Daquis commented that since the accused refused to sign the pre-trial order, that the
same be abrogated and that trial on the merits ensued. Consequently, the Pre-Trial Order issued by this Court on
March 11, 2004 is hereby recalled and set aside. In view of the refusal of the accused to enter into any stipulation of
facts, let this case be scheduled for trial on the merits. The presentation of prosecutions evidence is hereby
scheduled on August 31 and September 1, 2004 at 2:00 oclock in the afternoon. The demurrer to evidence filed by
the accused is therefore considered premature and is hereby stricken out of the records.13
Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied on July 28, 2004, as follows:
The "Motion for Reconsideration (of June 14, 2004 Order)" dated June 29, 2004 filed by accused, thru counsels
which met vigorous opposition from the prosecutions Comment/Opposition dated July 16, 2004 is denied for lack of
merit. As clearly stated in the Order of June 14, 2004, the case for the prosecution was re-opened because of the
refusal of accused to sign the pre-trial order on the basis of which the prosecution rested its case. Justice and
fairness demand the re-opening of the evidence for the prosecution because of the unwarranted act of the accused in
refusing to sign the pre-trial order.14
Hence, the instant petition contending that the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in issuing the assailed
June 14, 2004 Order and July 28, 2004 Resolution.
Meanwhile, there being no temporary restraining order nor preliminary injunction issued by this Court, the prosecution
proceeded with the presentation of its evidence.15
The issues for resolution are (1) was petitioners Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence premature? (2) may
the prosecution be allowed to present evidence after it orally manifested its intention to rest its case? (3) was
petitioner denied his right to speedy trial?
Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, provides:
SEC. 23. Demurrer to evidence. After the prosecution rests its case, the court may dismiss the action on the ground
of insufficiency of evidence (1) on its own initiative after giving the prosecution the opportunity to be heard or (2) upon
demurrer to evidence filed by the accused with or without leave of court.
Corollarily, Section 34, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 34. Offer of evidence. The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose
for which the evidence is offered must be specified.
A demurrer to evidence tests the sufficiency or insufficiency of the prosecutions evidence. As such, a demurrer to
evidence or a motion for leave to file the same must be filed after the prosecution rests its case. But before an
evidence may be admitted, the rules require that the same be formally offered, otherwise, it cannot be considered by
the court. A prior formal offer of evidence concludes the case for the prosecution and determines the timeliness of the
filing of a demurrer to evidence.
As held in Aquino v. Sison,16 the motion to dismiss for insufficiency of evidence filed by the accused after the
conclusion of the cross-examination of the witness for the prosecution, is premature because the latter is still in the

process of presenting evidence. The chemistry report relied upon by the court in granting the motion to dismiss was
disregarded because it was not properly identified or formally offered as evidence. Verily, until such time that the
prosecution closed its evidence, the defense cannot be considered to have seasonably filed a demurrer to evidence
or a motion for leave to file the same.
In the present case, petitioners motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence is premature because the prosecution
had yet to formally rest its case. When the motion was filed on January 19, 2004, the latter had not yet marked nor
formally offered the Joint Stipulation of Facts as evidence. It is inconsequential that petitioner received by mail on
January 27, 2004, a motion and formal offer of evidence dated January 20, 2004 from Prosecutor
Salindong,17 because, as aptly observed by the Office of the Ombudsman, the records of the Sandiganbayan bear no
such motion or formal offer of evidence filed by the prosecution. The motion and formal offer found in the records are
those attached as Annex "B"18 to petitioners Manifestation with Motion for Reconsideration19 and not copies filed by
the prosecution. Under Section 12, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, the filing of a pleading or paper shall be proved by
its existence in the case records. The absence of the motion to rest the case in the records of the Sandiganbayan
and the failure to offer the Joint Stipulation of Facts prove that the prosecution did not formally rest or conclude the
presentation of its evidence, rendering petitioners motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, premature.
At any rate, had the prosecution actually filed said motion and formally offered the evidence before the
Sandiganbayan, the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence still suffers prematurity because it was filed on
January 19, 2004, or one day before the date of the motion and offer, i.e., January 20, 2004. In fact, even petitioner
admitted in his motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence that the prosecution failed to mark and offer any
evidence against him.20
Anent the second issue, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the prosecutions request to
present additional evidence. Admission of additional evidence is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.
Considerable latitude is allowed and such discretion will not be disturbed absent a finding that the accused was
denied due process of law. As early as the 1907 case of United States v. Cinco,21 the Court has consistently upheld
such prerogative of the trial court, thus
... The judges of the Courts of First Instance are judges of both fact and law, and after hearing all the evidence
adduced by the attorneys, if the court is not satisfied, we see no reason why he should not be permitted to call
additional witnesses for the purpose of satisfying his mind upon any questions presented during the trial of the case.
Indeed, in the furtherance of justice, the court may grant the parties the opportunity to adduce additional evidence
bearing upon the main issue in question.22 Thus, in Hon. Vega, etc., et al. v. Hon. Panis, etc., et al.,23 the Court
sustained the order of the trial court allowing the prosecution to present additional evidence after it had offered its
evidence and rested its case and after the defense filed a motion to dismiss. It was stressed therein that while the
prosecution had rested, the trial was not yet terminated and the case was still under the control and jurisdiction of the
court. Hence, in the exercise of its discretion, the trial court may receive additional evidence.
We also held in People v. Januario,24 that strict observance of the order of trial or trial procedure outlined in Rule 119
of the Rules of Court depends upon the circumstance obtaining in each case at the discretion of the trial judge.
Citing United States v. Alviar,25 the Court explained
The orderly course of proceedings requires, however, that the prosecution shall go forward and should present all
of its proof in the first instance; but it is competent for the judge, according to the nature of the case, to allow a party
who had closed his case to introduce further evidence in rebuttal. This rule, however, depends upon the particular
circumstances of each particular case and falls within the sound discretion of the judge, to be exercised or not as he
may think proper.
Hence, the court may allow the prosecutor, even after he has rested his case or after the defense moved for
dismissal, to present involuntarily omitted evidence.26
It must be emphasized that the primary consideration in allowing the reopening of a case is for the accused to
have his day in court and the opportunity to present counter evidence. Thus

As a rule, the matter of reopening of a case for reception of further evidence after either prosecution or defense
has rested its case is within the discretion of the trial court. However, a concession to a reopening must not prejudice
the accused or deny him the opportunity to introduce counter evidence.
In U.S. vs. Base, we held that a trial court is not in error, if it opts to reopen the proceedings of a case, even after
both sides had rested and the case submitted for decision, by the calling of additional witnesses or recalling of
witnesses so as to satisfy the judges mind with reference to particular facts involved in the case. A judge cannot be
faulted should he require a material witness to complete his testimony, which is what happened in this case. It is but
proper that the judges mind be satisfied on any and all questions presented during the trial, in order to serve the
cause of justice.
Appellants claim that the trial courts concession to "reopen" the case unduly prejudiced him is not well taken. We
note that appellant had every opportunity to present his evidence to support his case or to refute the prosecutions
evidence point-by-point, after the prosecution had rested its case. In short, appellant was never deprived of his day in
court. A day in court is the touchstone of the right to due process in criminal justice. Thus, we are unable to hold that
a grave abuse of discretion was committed by the trial court when it ordered the so-called "reopening" in order to
complete the testimony of a prosecution witness.27
In the case at bar, petitioner cannot claim denial of due process because he will have the opportunity to contest the
evidence adduced against him and to prove his defenses after the prosecution concludes the presentation of its
evidence. Moreover, the order of the trial court granting the reception of additional evidence for the prosecution is not
technically a "reopening" of the case inasmuch as the latter had yet to formally rest its case. A motion to reopen
presupposes that either or both parties have formally offered and closed their evidence.28 If the Court sanctions the
admission of additional evidence after the case had been submitted for resolution but before judgment, with more
reason therefore that we should sustain the introduction of additional evidence in the present case because the
prosecution had not yet concluded the presentation of its evidence. The State is also entitled to due process in
criminal cases, that is, a fair opportunity to prosecute and convict. The Court has always accorded this right to the
prosecution, and where the right had been denied, had promptly annulled the offending court action.29
Furthermore, the haphazard manner by which Prosecutor Salindong handled the case for the State will not pass
unnoticed by the Court. It is the duty of the public prosecutor to bring the criminal proceedings for the punishment of
the guilty. Concomitant with this is the duty to pursue the prosecution of a criminal action and to represent the public
interest.30 With these standards, we thus find Prosecutor Salindong remiss in the performance of his responsibilities.
He gravely abused his discretion by resting the case without adducing evidence for the State and without ensuring
that petitioner had signed the Joint Stipulation of Facts before it was submitted to the Sandiganbayan. As a result, the
prosecution was denied due process.
In light of the foregoing, the Sandiganbayan was therefore correct in allowing the State to adduce additional
evidence. The State should not be prejudiced and deprived of its right to prosecute cases simply because of the
ineptitude or nonchalance of the Special Prosecutor.31 A contrary ruling would result in a void proceedings.
In Merciales v. Court of Appeals,32 the Court annulled the acquittal of the accused based on the demurrer to evidence
filed by the defense. It was held that the prosecutors failure to present sufficient evidence to convict the accused and
the indifference displayed by the trial court in not requiring the prosecutor to present additional evidence resulted in
the denial of the States right to due process warranting the reversal of the judgment of acquittal on the ground of
absence of jurisdiction. Thus
... [T]he public prosecutor knew that he had not presented sufficient evidence to convict the accused.... he
deliberately failed to present an available witness and thereby allowed the court to declare that the prosecution has
rested its case.... he was remiss in his duty to protect the interest of the offended parties.... [and] was guilty of blatant
error and abuse of discretion, thereby causing prejudice to the offended party
.

By refusing to comply with the trial courts order to present evidence, the public prosecutor grossly violated the
above-quoted rule. Moreover, the public prosecutor violated his bounden duty to protect the interest of the offended
party.... After the trial court denied his motion to discharge Nuada as a state witness, he should have proceeded to
complete the evidence of the prosecution by other means. Instead, he willfully and deliberately refused to present an
available witness, i.e., the NBI Agent who was present in court on that date and time. The public prosecutor was dutybound to exhaust all available proofs to establish the guilt of the accused and bring them to justice for their offense
against the injured party.
Likewise guilty for serious nonfeasance was the trial court. Notwithstanding its knowledge that the evidence for the
prosecution was insufficient to convict, especially after the public prosecutor tenaciously insisted on utilizing Nuada
as state witness, the trial court passively watched as the public prosecutor bungled the case. The trial court was well
aware of the nature of the testimonies of the seven prosecution witnesses that have so far been presented. Given this
circumstance, the trial court, motu proprio, should have called additional witnesses for the purpose of questioning
them himself in order to satisfy his mind with reference to particular facts or issues involved in the case.
Based on the foregoing, it is evident that petitioner was deprived of her day in court. Indeed, it is not only the State,
but more so the offended party, that is entitled to due process in criminal cases. Inasmuch as the acquittal of the
accused by the court a quo was done without regard to due process of law, the same is null and void. It is as if there
was no acquittal at all, and the same cannot constitute a claim for double jeopardy.
In the same vein, the right to speedy trial cannot be successfully invoked where to sustain the same would result in a
clear denial of due process to the prosecution. While justice is administered with dispatch, the essential ingredient is
orderly, expeditious and not mere speed. It cannot be definitely said how long is too long in a system where justice is
supposed to be swift, but deliberate. It is consistent with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to
the accused, but it does not preclude the rights of public justice. Also, it must be borne in mind that the rights given to
the accused by the Constitution and the Rules of Court are shields, not weapons; hence, courts are to give meaning
to that intent.33
As significant as the right of an accused to a speedy trial is the right of the State to prosecute people who violate its
penal laws.34 The right to a speedy trial is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious,
capricious and oppressive delays.35 In the instant case, allowing the prosecution to present additional evidence, is a
lawful exercise of due process and is certainly not intended to vex or oppress the petitioner. In the balancing test
used to determine whether an accused had been denied speedy disposition of cases, the scales tilt in favor of
allowing the prosecution to adduce further evidence. Slowly but surely, justice and due process would be afforded to
the prosecution and to petitioner as well who would have the chance to present counter evidence. On the other hand,
to erroneously put premium on the right to speedy trial in the instant case and deny the prosecutions prayer to
adduce additional evidence would logically result in the dismissal of the case for the State. There is no difference
between an order outrightly dismissing the case and an order allowing the eventual dismissal thereof. Both would set
a dangerous precedent which enables the accused, who may be guilty, to go free without having been validly tried,
thereby infringing the interest of the society.
Neither can petitioner capitalize on the pendency of his case since 1998. Note that the 1994 anonymous
complaint36 against petitioner was indorsed for investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman to the National Bureau
of Investigation which submitted its findings in 1995. On March 15, 1996, the Ombudsman for Luzon recommended
the filing of a complaint for violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019,37 followed by another recommendation from the
Graft Investigation Officer on July 14, 1998 for the institution of an Information against petitioner.38 After Ombudsman
Aniano Desiertos approval of said resolution on February 5, 1999,39 the Special Prosecutor filed the Information on
February 10, 1999. The arraignment on April 13, 1999, was followed by seven (7) requests of petitioner to travel
abroad, all of which were granted by the Sandiganbayan.40 On June 28, 2002, the latter directed the counsels to
submit a Joint Stipulation of Facts, which was presented on March 24, 2003.41Considering the difficulty of obtaining a
quorum in the Sandiganbayan due to the retirement of the Justices, the presentation of the prosecutions evidence
scheduled on May 19 & 20 and July 8 & 9, 2003, were moved to September 8 & 942 and November 10 & 11, 2003. On
the latter dates, however, the prosecution witnesses failed to appear, prompting the Special Prosecutor to manifest
his intention to rest the case on January 12, 2004.

All this time, however, petitioner never invoked his right to speedy trial. In Guerrero v. CA,43 it was held that failure to
seasonably raise the right to speedy trial precludes the accused from relying thereon as a ground to dismiss the case.
He is deemed to have slept on his rights by not asserting the right to speedy disposition at the earliest possible
opportunity. The Court explained its ruling in this wise:
In the case before us, the petitioner merely sat and waited after the case was submitted for resolution in 1979. It was
only in 1989 when the case below was re-raffled from the RTC of Caloocan City to the RTC of Navotas-Malabon and
only after respondent trial judge of the latter court ordered on March 14, 1990 the parties to follow-up and complete
the transcript of stenographic notes that matters started to get moving towards a resolution of the case. More
importantly, it was only after the new trial judge reset the retaking of the testimonies to November 9, 1990 because of
petitioners absence during the original setting on October 24, 1990 that the accused suddenly became zealous of
safeguarding his right to speedy trial and disposition.
.
It is fair to assume that he would have just continued to sleep on his right a situation amounting to laches had
the respondent judge not taken the initiative of determining the non-completion of the records and of ordering the
remedy precisely so he could dispose of the case. The matter could have taken a different dimension if during all
those ten years between 1979 when accused filed his memorandum and 1989 when the case was re-raffled, the
accused showed signs of asserting his right which was granted him in 1987 when the new constitution took effect, or
at least made some overt act (like a motion for early disposition or a motion to compel the stenographer to transcribe
notes) that he was not waiving it. As it is, his silence would have to be interpreted as a waiver of such right.
In Dela Pea v. Sandiganbayan,44 the Court denied a petition seeking to quash the Information holding that the
silence of the accused amounted to laches. In the said case, the investigatory process was set in motion on August
14, 1992 and the Information was filed on May 6, 1997. After the arraignment was set sometime in December 1999,
the accused filed a motion to quash on December 21, 1999, based on the violation of his right to due process and
prompt disposition of cases. In sustaining the Sandiganbayans denial of the motion to quash, the Court ratiocinated
that:
Moreover, it is worthy to note that it was only on 21 December 1999, after the case was set for arraignment, that
petitioners raised the issue of the delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation. As stated by them in their
Motion to Quash/Dismiss, "[o]ther than the counter-affidavits, [they] did nothing." Also, in their petition, they averred:
"Aside from the motion for extension of time to file counter-affidavits, petitioners in the present case did not file nor
send any letter-queries addressed to the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao which conducted the preliminary
investigation." They slept on their right a situation amounting to laches. The matter could have taken a different
dimension if during all those four years, they showed signs of asserting their right to a speedy disposition of their
cases or at least made some overt acts, like filing a motion for early resolution, to show that they were not waiving
that right. Their silence may, therefore be interpreted as a waiver of such right. As aptly stated in Alvizo, the petitioner
therein was "insensitive to the implications and contingencies" of the projected criminal prosecution posed against
him "by not taking any step whatsoever to accelerate the disposition of the matter, which inaction conduces to the
perception that the supervening delay seems to have been without his objection, [and] hence impliedly with his
acquiescence.
The foregoing doctrines were reiterated in Bernat v. Sandiganbayan,45 where the claim of denial of the right to a
speedy disposition of his criminal case was brushed aside by the Court considering that the accused waited eight
years before complaining of the delay in the disposal of his case.
The rule as consistently applied in this jurisdiction is that objections to the sluggish disposition of the case must be
positively invoked by the accused and a demand therefor must be openly made. The Court ruled in Corpuz v.
Sandiganbayan,46 that dismissal of a case is not justified simply because the prosecutor had gone to sleep at the
switch while the defendant and his counsel rested in silence. The accused must not be rewarded by the dismissal of
the case and the State and society punished by the neglect of the prosecutor unless the accused himself calls the
attention of the court on the matter.

We see no reason to deviate from the jurisprudential holdings and treat the instant case differently. Petitioner never
contested the prosecutorial proceedings nor timely challenged the pendency of the case after arraignment. It was
only in the Motion for Reconsideration of the June 14, 2004 order denying the demurrer to evidence and setting the
case for reception of additional evidence for the prosecution, that petitioner insisted on his right to speedy trial. Under
Section 9, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, failure of the accused to move for dismissal prior to trial constitutes a
waiver of his right to speedy trial. His failure therefore to timely question the delay in the disposition of the case
amounted to an implied acceptance of such delay and a waiver of the right to question the same. Like any other right
conferred by the Constitution or statute, except when otherwise expressly so provided, the speedy trial right may be
waived when not positively asserted. Thus, if there was a delay in the disposition of the case, petitioner is not entirely
without blame.47
Then too, while petitioner is free to acknowledge or reject the Joint Stipulation of Facts, the trial court cannot be said
to have abused its discretion in ordering petitioner to sign the same considering that said stipulation was not yet
formally offered by the prosecution. At that stage, said document cannot yet be considered "officially" an evidence for
the prosecution. The refusal therefore of petitioner to affix his signature in the said stipulation or in the Pre-trial Order
embodying the same is sufficient justification for the trial court to recall the latter and in the exercise of its sound
discretion, set the case for presentation of the prosecutions evidence.
Finally, if petitioner disagrees with the denial of his motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, his remedy is not to
file a petition for certiorari but to proceed with the presentation of his evidence and to appeal any adverse decision
that may be rendered by the trial court. The last sentence of Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, provides that
"the order denying a motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself shall not be
reviewable by appeal or certiorari before judgment."
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The June 14, 2004 Order of respondent Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case
No. 25160 which denied petitioners motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence and set the case for presentation of
evidence for the prosecution; as well its July 28, 2004 Resolution denying petitioners motion for reconsideration
are AFFIRMED.
The instant case is REMANDED to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. Nos. 153304-05

February 7, 2012

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. SANDIGANBAYAN (FOURTH DIVISION), IMELDA R. MARCOS, JOSE CONRADO BENITEZ and GILBERT
C. DULAY,* Respondents.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before us is a petition for certiorari filed by the People of the Philippines (petitioner) assailing the decision dated
March 22, 2002 of the Sandiganbayan1 in Criminal Case Nos. 20345 and 20346 which granted the demurrers to
evidence filed by Imelda R. Marcos, Jose Conrado Benitez (respondents) and Rafael Zagala.
The Facts
The petition stemmed from two criminal informations filed before the Sandiganbayan, charging the respondents with
the crime of malversation of public funds, defined and penalized under Article 217, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal
Code, as amended. The charges arose from the transactions that the respondents participated in, in their official

capacities as Minister and Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS) under the MHS Kabisig
Program.
In Criminal Case No. 20345, respondents, together with Gilbert C. Dulay, were charged with malversation of public
funds, committed as follows:
That on or about April 6, 1984 or sometime and/or [subsequent] thereto, in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, all public officers charged with the
administration of public funds and as such, accountable officers, Imelda R. Marcos being then the Minister of Human
Settlements, Jose Conrado Benitez being then the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements and Gilbert C. Dulay being
then [the] Assistant Manager for Finance, Ministry of Human Settlements, while in the performance of their official
functions, taking advantage of their positions, acting in concert and mutually helping one another thru manifest
partiality and evident bad faith did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally, in a series of anomalous
transactions, abstract the total amount of P57.954 Million Pesos (sic), Philippine Currency from the funds of the
Ministry of Human Settlements in the following manner: accused Conrado Benitez approved the series of cash
advances made and received by Gilbert C. Dulay, and made it appear that the funds were transferred to the
University of Life, a private foundation represented likewise by Gilbert C. Dulay when in truth and in fact no such
funds were transferred while Imelda R. Marcos concurred in the series of such cash advances approved by Jose
Conrado Benitez and received by Gilbert C. Dulay and in furtherance of the conspiracy, in order to camouflage the
aforesaid anomalous and irregular cash advances and withdrawals, Imelda R. Marcos requested that the funds of the
KSS Program be treated as "Confidential Funds"; and as such be considered as "Classified Information"; and that the
above-named accused, once in possession of the said aggregate amount ofP57.954 Million Pesos (sic),
misappropriated and converted the same to their own use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of the
government in the said amount.
CONTRARY TO LAW. [Emphasis ours]2
In Criminal Case No. 20346, respondents together with Zagala were charged with malversation of public funds under
these allegations:
That on or about April 6 to April 16, 19843 and/or sometime or subsequent thereto, in Pasig, Metro Manila,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, all public officers charged
with the administration of public funds and as such, accountable officers, Imelda R. Marcos being then the Minister of
Human Settlements, Jose Conrado Benitez being then the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements[,] and Rafael
Zagala being then [the] Assistant Manager for Regional Operations and at the same time Presidential Action Officer,
while in the performance of their official functions, taking advantage of their positions, acting in concert and mutually
helping one another thru manifest partiality and evident bad faith[,] did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
criminally, in a series of anomalous transactions, abstract from the funds of the Ministry of Human Settlements the
total amount of P40 Million Pesos (sic), Philippine Currency, in the following manner: Jose Conrado Benitez approved
the cash advances made by Rafael Zagala and Imelda R. Marcos concurred in the series of cash advances approved
by Jose Conrado Benitez in favor of Rafael G. Zagala; and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Imelda R. Marcos in
order to camouflage the aforesaid anomalous and irregular cash advances, requested that funds of the KSS Program
be treated as "Confidential Funds"; and as such be considered as "Classified Information"; and the above-named
accused, once in possession of the total amount ofP40 Million Pesos (sic), misappropriated and converted the same
to their own use and benefit to the damage and prejudice of the government in the said amount.
CONTRARY TO LAW. [Emphasis ours]4
Only the respondents and Zagala were arraigned for the above charges to which they pleaded not guilty; Dulay was
not arraigned and remains at large. On March 15, 2000, Zagala died, leaving the respondents to answer the charges
in the criminal cases.
After the pre-trial conference, a joint trial of the criminal cases ensued. The prosecutions chief evidence was based
on the lone testimony of Commission of Audit (COA) Auditor Iluminada Cortez and the documentary evidence used in
the audit examination of the subject funds.5

The gist of COA Auditor Cortez direct testimony was summarized by the Sandiganbaya, as follows:
In Criminal Case No. 20345
[s]he was appointed on March 31, 1986 by then COA Chairman Teofisto Guingona, Jr. to head a team of COA
auditors. Upon examination of the documents, she declared that an amount of P100 Million Pesos (sic) from the
Office of Budget and Management was released for the KSS Project of the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS) by
virtue of an Advice of Allotment for Calendar Year 1984. Also, an amount of P42.4 Million Pesos (sic) was separately
disbursed for the Kabisig Program of the Ministry of Human Settlements. With regard to the amount ofP100 Million
Pesos (sic) received by the MHS, P60 Million Pesos (sic) [was] disbursed through cash advances. Of the P60 Million
Pesos (sic) in cash advances, accused Zagala received P40 Million Pesos (sic) in four (4) disbursements while
accused Dulay received the remaining P20 Million Pesos (sic) in two disbursements.
With respect to accused Rafael Zagala, the cash advances consist of four (4) disbursement vouchers in the amount
of P5 Million Pesos (sic), P10 Million Pesos (sic), P10 Million Pesos (sic) and P15 Million Pesos (sic). All of these
vouchers are in the name of accused Zagala as claimant and accused Benitez as approving officer and are
accompanied by their corresponding Treasury Warrants that were countersigned by accused Benitez and approved
by accused Dulay.
In contrast, x x x a disbursement voucher in the amount of P10 Million Pesos (sic) was drawn in favor of accused
Gilbert Dulay and approved by accused Benitez. Pursuant to this, a Treasury Warrant was issued to the order of
accused Dulay, countersigned by accused Benitez and approved by accused Zagala. Another voucher was drawn in
favor of accused Dulay in the amount of P10 Million Pesos (sic) and approved by accused Benitez. Again, a Treasury
Warrant was issued to the order of accused Dulay in the amount of P10 Million Pesos (sic), which was countersigned
by accused Benitez and approved by accused Zagala.
x x x [A]ccused Marcos sent a letter to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos requesting that the fund intended for the
KSS Project in the amount of P100 Million Pesos (sic) be deemed as "Confidential Fund".
x x x [T]he liquidation of accused Zagalas account, which was contained in a Journal Voucher dated November 27,
1984, was without any supporting documents. Upon this discovery, witness requested and secured a certification
from the Manager of the National Government Audit Office to the effect that the COA did not receive any document
coming from the MHS. However, this liquidation voucher which contained figures in the total amount of P50 Million
Pesos (sic), comprised the entire cash advances of accused Zagala in the amount of P40 Million Pesos (sic) and
the P10 Million Pesos (sic) cash advance made by accused Dulay. Since the amount ofP10 Million Pesos (sic) was
already contained in Zagalas Journal Voucher, the witness and her team of auditors tried to locate the remaining P10
Million Pesos (sic) and found out that accused Dulay had liquidated the same amount.6 (footnotes omitted)
According to COA Auditor Cortez, Zagalas cash advances were supported by a liquidation report and supporting
documents submitted to the resident auditor even before the P100 Million Kilusang Sariling Sikap (KSS) fund was
made confidential.7 The witness also testified that the COA resident auditor found no irregularity in this liquidation
report.8
COA Auditor Cortez stated that since the P100 Million KSS fund was classified as confidential, the liquidation report
should have been submitted to the COA Chairman who should have then issued a credit memo. No credit memo was
ever found during the audit examination of the MHS accounts.9 COA Auditor Cortez admitted that she did not verify
whether the supporting documents of Zagalas cash advances were sent to the COA Chairman.10
Respondent Marcos was prosecuted because of her participation as Minister of the MHS, in requesting that theP100
Million KSS fund be declared confidential. Respondent Benitez was prosecuted because he was the approving officer
in these disputed transactions.
In Criminal Case No. 20346

Regarding the Kabisig Program of the MHS, the COA team of auditors examined the vouchers of the MHS, which
upon inspection revealed that there were at least three (3) memoranda of agreements entered into between the MHS
and University of Life (UL). With reference to the first Memorandum of Agreement dated July 2, 1985, an amount
of P21.6 Million Pesos (sic) was transferred by the MHS to the UL to pay for the operations of the Community
Mobilization Program and the Kabisig Program of the MHS. Accused Benitez as the Deputy Minister of the MHS and
accused Dulay as Vice President of the UL were the signatories of this agreement. Although there is no disbursement
voucher in the records, it is admitted that a Treasury Warrant was drawn in the sum of P21.6 Million Pesos (sic). The
second Memorandum of Agreement dated July 10, 1985 provided for a fund transfer in the amount of P3.8 Million
Pesos (sic) for the Human Resources Development Plan of the MHS. Accordingly, a Disbursement Voucher certified
by accused Dulay and approved by accused Benitez was drawn in the sum ofP3.8 Million Pesos (sic). The third
Memorandum of Agreement in the sum of P17 Million Pesos (sic) was granted for the acquisition of motor vehicles
and other equipment to support the Kabisig Program of the MHS. For that reason, a Disbursement Voucher
pertaining thereto accompanied by a Treasury Warrant was drafted.
Similarly, the witness declared that although they did not examine any of the records of the UL, the abovementioned
sums were not received by the UL based on the affidavit of the UL Comptroller named Pablo Cueto. In the same way,
an affidavit was executed by the UL Chief Accountant named Ernesto Jiao attesting that there is no financial
transaction on record covering the purchase of motor vehicles. Again, witness Cortez admitted that they did not
examine the books of the UL on this matter but only inquired about it from Mr. Jiao. The affidavit of Mr. Jiao with
respect to the nonexistence of the purchases of motor vehicles was further corroborated by the affidavit of one
Romeo Sison, who was the Administrative Assistant of the Property Section of the UL.
The respective treasury warrants representing the various sums of P21.6 Million Pesos (sic), P17 Million Pesos (sic)
and P3.8 Million Pesos (sic) were subsequently deposited with the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Shaw
Blvd. Branch, Mandaluyong, under various accounts. Soon after, several checks were drawn out of these funds as
evidenced by the Photostat copies recovered by the COA auditors. In the course of the testimony of the witness, she
revealed that her team of auditors classified said several checks into different groups in accordance with the account
numbers of the said deposits.
x x x [T]he amount of P3.8 Million Pesos (sic), the same was intended for the Human Resource Development Plan of
the UL. x x x [T]he aforesaid amount is not a cash advance but rather paid as an expense account, which is charged
directly as if services have already been rendered. Hence, UL is not mandated to render liquidation for the
disbursement of P3.8 Million Pesos (sic).
The sums of P21.6 Million Pesos (sic) and P17 Million Pesos (sic) were deposited under x x x the name of the UL
Special Account. Out of these deposits, the following first sequence of withdrawals of checks11 payable either to its
order or to cash x x x reached a total sum of P5,690,750.93 Million Pesos (sic).
The second list of checks12 [which] consists of numerous [Managers] Checks x x x reached the amount
ofP18,416,062.15.
A third set of checks allegedly consists of nine (9) ordinary checks and two (2) managers checks in the sum
ofP1,971,568.00 and P4,566,712.18[,] respectively. x x x
Moreover, [a] witness confirmed that as regards the amount of P17 Million Pesos (sic) intended for the acquisition of
motor vehicles, P10.4 Million Pesos (sic) was spent for the purchase of some five hundred (500) units of motorcycles
while P2.1 Million Pesos (sic) was used to procure eight (8) brand new cars. The balance of P4.5 Million Pesos (sic)
was later refunded to the MHS. As regards the five hundred (500) units of motorcycle, the Presidential Task Force
furnished the witness documents attesting to the transfers of some two hundred seventy-one (271) units of
motorcycles from the UL to the MHS by virtue of Deed of Assignments allegedly executed on February 17, 1986.
However, of the two hundred seventy-one (271) units of motorcycle, only one hundred ninety (190) units were
covered with complete documents. With respect to the eight (8) brand new cars, the team of auditors did not see any
registration papers. (footnotes omitted; underscorings ours)13
COA Auditor Cortez admitted that the audit team did not conduct a physical inventory of these motor vehicles; it
based its report on the information given by the Presidential Task Force.14 She emphasized that the audit team found

it highly irregular that the motor vehicles were registered in the name of University of Life (UL) and not in the name of
MHS; and for this reason, she believed that no proper liquidation was made of these vehicles by MHS.15
After COA Auditor Cortez testimony, the prosecution submitted its formal offer of evidence and rested its case.
Subsequently, separate motions to dismiss the criminal cases, by way of demurrers to evidence, were filed by Zagala
and the respondents on November 15, 1997, January 5, 1998 and January 28, 1998; on January 27, 1998, the
prosecution filed a Manifestation stating that it was not opposing the demurrers to evidence.16
The Sandiganbayans Ruling
The Sandiganbayan granted the demurrers to evidence and acquitted the respondents in its assailed decision dated
March 22, 2002. The dispositive portion of this decision reads:
Wherefore, the Demurrers to Evidence are hereby granted. Accused Imelda R. Marcos, Jose Conrado Benitez and
Gilbert C. Dulay are hereby acquitted of the crime of Malversation in Criminal Case No. 20435 for insufficiency of
evidence to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Accused Imelda R. Marcos, Jose Conrado Benitez and Rafael
G. Zagala are likewise acquitted of the offense of Malversation in Criminal Case No. 20346 for insufficiency of
evidence in proving their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.17
In dismissing these criminal cases, the Sandiganbayan found no evidence of misappropriation of the subject funds in
the two criminal cases considering the unreliability and incompleteness of the audit report.18
The Issues
The issues for our consideration are:
1. Whether the prosecutors actions and/or omissions in these cases effectively deprived the State of its right
to due process; and
2. Whether the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in granting the demurrers to evidence of the
respondents.
The petitioner claims that the State was denied due process because of the nonfeasance committed by the special
prosecutor in failing to present sufficient evidence to prove its case. It claims that the prosecutor failed to protect the
States interest in the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan. To support its position, petitioner cites the case of
Merciales v. Court of Appeals19 where the Court nullified the dismissal of the criminal cases due to the serious
nonfeasance committed by the public prosecutor.
The petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction that resulted in a miscarriage of justice prejudicial to the States interest when it took the demurrers to
evidence at face value instead of requiring the presentation of additional evidence, taking into consideration the huge
amounts of public funds involved and the special prosecutors failure to oppose the demurrers to evidence.
The Courts Ruling
We do not find the petition meritorious.
We are called to overturn a judgment of acquittal in favor of the respondents brought about by the dismissal, for
insufficiency of evidence, of the malversation charged in the two criminal cases. As a rule, once the court grants the
demurrer, the grant amounts to an acquittal; any further prosecution of the accused would violate the constitutional
proscription on double jeopardy.20 Notably, the proscription against double jeopardy only envisages appeals based on
errors of judgment, but not errors of jurisdiction. Jurisprudence recognizes two grounds where double jeopardy will

not attach, these are: (i) on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction;21 and/or (ii) where there is a denial of a partys due process rights.22
A judgment of acquittal sought to be reviewed on the basis of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction or on the ground of denial of due process implies an invalid or otherwise void judgment. If either or both
grounds are established, the judgment of acquittal is considered void; as a void judgment, it is legally inexistent and
does not have the effect of an acquittal.23 Thus, the defense of double jeopardy will not lie in such a case.24
Accordingly, a review of a dismissal order of the Sandiganbayan granting an accuseds demurrer to evidence may be
done via the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65, based on the narrow ground of grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.25 Mere allegations of grave abuse of discretion, however, are not enough
to establish this ground; so also, mere abuse of discretion is not sufficient.26 On the petitioner lies the burden of
demonstrating, plainly and distinctly, all facts essential to establish its right to a writ of certiorari. 27
In the present case, the petitioner particularly imputes grave abuse of discretion on the Sandiganbayan for its grant of
the demurrer to evidence, without requiring the presentation of additional evidence and despite the lack of basis for
the grant traceable to the special prosecutors conduct. The special prosecutors conduct allegedly also violated the
States due process rights.
There is grave abuse of discretion when the public respondent acts in a capricious, whimsical, arbitrary or despotic
manner, amounting to lack of jurisdiction, in the exercise of its judgment.28 An act is done without jurisdiction if the
public respondent does not have the legal power to act or where the respondent, being clothed with the power to act,
oversteps its authority as determined by law,29 or acts outside the contemplation of law. For the grant of the present
petition, the petitioner must prove, based on the existing records, action in the above manner by the Sandiganbayan.
I. States right to due process
In People v. Leviste,30 we stressed that the State, like any other litigant, is entitled to its day in court; in criminal
proceedings, the public prosecutor acts for and represents the State, and carries the burden of diligently pursuing the
criminal prosecution in a manner consistent with public interest.31 The States right to be heard in court rests to a
large extent on whether the public prosecutor properly undertook his duties in pursuing the criminal action for the
punishment of the guilty.32
The prosecutors role in the administration of justice is to lay before the court, fairly and fully, every fact and
circumstance known to him or her to exist, without regard to whether such fact tends to establish the guilt or
innocence of the accused and without regard to any personal conviction or presumption on what the judge may or is
disposed to do.33 The prosecutor owes the State, the court and the accused the duty to lay before the court the
pertinent facts at his disposal with methodical and meticulous attention, clarifying contradictions and filling up gaps
and loopholes in his evidence to the end that the courts mind may not be tortured by doubts; that the innocent may
not suffer; and that the guilty may not escape unpunished.34 In the conduct of the criminal proceedings, the
prosecutor has ample discretionary power to control the conduct of the presentation of the prosecution evidence, part
of which is the option to choose what evidence to present or who to call as witness.35
The petitioner claims that the special prosecutor failed in her duty to give effective legal representation to enable the
State to fully present its case against the respondents, citing Merciales v. Court of Appeals36 where we considered the
following factual circumstances - (1) the public prosecutor rested the case knowing fully well that the evidence
adduced was insufficient; (2) the refusal of the public prosecutor to present other witnesses available to take the
stand; (3) the knowledge of the trial court of the insufficiency of the prosecutions evidence when the demurrer to
evidence was filed before it; and (4) the trial courts failure to require the presentation of additional evidence before it
acted on the demurrer to evidence. All these circumstances effectively resulted in the denial of the States right to due
process, attributable to the inaction of the public prosecutor and/or the trial court.
Merciales was followed by Valencia v. Sandiganbayan,37 where we recognized the violation of the States right to due
process in criminal proceedings because of sufficient showing that the special prosecutor haphazardly handled the
prosecution. In upholding the prosecutions right to present additional evidence under the circumstances, Valencia

took into account the fact that the former special prosecutor rested his case solely on the basis of a Joint Stipulation
of Facts that was not even signed by the accused.
These two cases, to our mind, not only show the existing factual considerations38 that led to the conclusion that the
public prosecutor willfully and deliberately failed to perform his mandated duty to represent the States interest, but
stress as well that there must be sufficient facts on record supporting this conclusion. In the absence of these
supporting facts, no conclusion similar to the Merciales and Valencia outcomes can be reached.
The requirement for supporting factual premises finds complement in the general rule founded on public policy39that
the negligence or mistake of a counsel binds the client. While this rule admits of exceptions40 (as when the gross
negligence of a counsel resulted in depriving the client of due process), the application of the exception likewise
depends on a showing of facts on record demonstrating a clear violation of the clients due process rights.
II. The factual premises cited in the petition and the issue of due process
In the present case, we find that the State was not denied due process in the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan.
There was no indication that the special prosecutor deliberately and willfully failed to present available evidence or
that other evidence could be secured. For purposes of clarity, we shall address the instances cited in the petition as
alleged proof of the denial of the States due process rights, and our reasons in finding them inadequate.
First. The petitioner bewails the alleged lack of efforts by the special prosecutor to ascertain the last known
addresses and whereabouts, and to compel the attendance of Pablo C. Cueto, Ernesto M. Jiao and Romeo F. Sison,
UL officers who executed affidavits in connection with the alleged anomalous fund transfers from MHS to UL.
The special prosecutor likewise allegedly did not present the records of the UL to show that the sums under the
Memoranda of Agreement were not received by UL (based on the affidavit of UL Comptroller Cueto) and that no
financial transactions really took place for the purchase of the motor vehicles (based on the affidavit of UL Chief
Accountant Jiao, as corroborated by the affidavit of UL Administrative Assistant Sison).
We note that, other than making a claim that these instances demonstrate the serious nonfeasance by the special
prosecutor, the petitioner failed to offer any explanation showing how these instances deprived the State of due
process. An examination of the records shows that the affidavits of Cueto,41 Jiao and Sison surfaced early on to prove
the alleged anomalous fund transfers from MHS to UL. The records further show that during the hearing of December
5, 1995 - when the special prosecutor was asked by the presiding judge what she intended to do with these affidavits
the special prosecutor replied that she planned to present Jiao and Cueto who were the chief accountant and the
designated comptroller, respectively, of UL.42 The same records, however, show that, indeed, an attempt had been
made to bring these prospective witnesses to court; as early as April 20, 1994, subpoenas had been issued to these
three individuals and these were all returned unserved because the subjects had RESIGNED from the service
sometime in 1992, and their present whereabouts were unknown.43
We consider at this point that these individuals executed their respective affidavits on the alleged anomalous
transactions between MHS and UL sometime in 1986; from that period on, and until the actual criminal prosecution
started in 1994, a considerable time had elapsed bringing undesirable changes one of which was the
disappearance of these prospective witnesses.
Significantly, no evidence exists or has been submitted showing that the special prosecutor willfully and deliberately
opted not to present these individuals. The petitioner also failed to show that the whereabouts of these individuals
could have been located by the exercise of reasonable diligence in order to prove that the special prosecutor had
been remiss in performing her duties. We can in fact deduce from the allegations in the petition that even at present,
the petitioner has not and cannot ascertain the whereabouts of these prospective witnesses.
Further, the records show that the affidavits of these individuals (who denied the transfer of the funds in the amounts
of P21.6 Million, P3.8 Million and P17 Million from MHS to UL) were refuted by contrary evidence of the prosecution
itself. The records indicate that the special prosecutor presented treasury warrants and disbursement vouchers
issued in the name of UL, bearing the respective amounts for transactions between MHS and UL.44

The special prosecutor admitted that the audit team failed to examine the records of UL to support the prosecutions
allegation of an anomalous fund transfer. COA Auditor Cortez admitted, too, that the amounts (P21.6 Million and P3.8
Million) were transferred45 to UL46 and that a portion of the amount of P17 Million, i.e.,P12.5 Million, was used to
purchase 500 motorcycles and eight cars, while the remaining amount of P4.5 Million was refunded by UL to MHS.47
Under these facts, and in the absence of indicators too that other persons could have testified, we cannot give weight
to the petitioners allegation that no efforts were exerted by the special prosecutor. On the contrary, we find under the
circumstances that the special prosecutor exerted reasonable efforts to present these individuals in court, but failed to
do so for reasons beyond her control. One of these reasons appears to be the simple lack of concrete evidence of
irregularities in the respondents handling of the MHS funds.
Second. The petitioner alleged that the special prosecutor failed to present the resident auditor to testify on the
physical inventory of the vehicles, or to produce documents showing that an inspection was conducted on the
vehicles.
The prosecutions theory, as the records would show, was to prove that there had been misappropriation of funds
since the motor vehicles were registered in ULs name instead of the MHS.48 In this regard, the special prosecutor
presented COA Auditor Cortez who testified that the audit team did not assail the existence of the motor vehicles and
she also did not dispute that the amount of P12.5 Million (out of P17 Million) was used to purchase 500 motorcycles
and eight cars. The witness stated that the audit team was more concerned with the documentation of the
disbursements made rather than the physical liquidation (inventory) of the funds.49 The witness further explained that
it was the Presidential Task Force which had the duty to keep track of the existence of the motor vehicles. 50 She
reiterated that the audit team was only questioning the registration of the vehicles; it never doubted that the vehicles
were purchased.51
More importantly, COA Auditor Cortez stated that at the time the team made the audit examination in April 1986, 500
registration papers supported the purchase of these motorcycles;52 none of the audit team at that time found this
documentation inadequate or anomalous.53 The witness also stated that the Presidential Task Force gave the audit
team a folder showing that P10.4 Million was used to purchase the motorcycles and P2.1 Million was used to
purchase the cars.54 Checks were presented indicating the dates when the purchase of some of the motor vehicles
was made.55 COA Auditor Cortez also testified that 270 of these motorcycles had already been transferred by UL in
the name of MHS.56 She stated that all the documents are in order except for the registration of the motor vehicles in
the name of UL.57
Given these admissions regarding the existence of the motor vehicles, the presentation of the resident auditor who
would simply testify on the physical inventory of the motor vehicles, or that an inspection had been conducted
thereon, was unnecessary. Her presentation in court would not materially reinforce the prosecutions case; thus, the
omission to present her did not deprive the State of due process. To repeat, the prosecutions theory of
misappropriation was not based on the fact that the funds were not used to purchase motor vehicles, in which case,
the testimony of the resident auditor would have had material implications. Rather, the prosecutions theory, as
established by the records, shows that the imputed misappropriation stemmed from the registration of the motor
vehicles in ULs name an administrative lapse in light of the relationship of UL to MHS simply as an implementing
agency.58
Third. Despite the Sandiganbayans warning on June 7, 1996 that the various checks covering the cash advances
for P40 Million were "photostatic" copies, the special prosecutor still failed to present the certified copies from the
legal custodian of these commercial documents.
The petitioner faults the special prosecutor for failing to present the original copies of the checks drawn out of
theP21.6 Million and P17 Million combination account from the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), as well as
theP3.8 Million expense account with the same bank. The presentation would have allegedly proven the
misappropriation of these amounts.59
Records show that instead of presenting the original copies of these checks, the special prosecutor tried to establish,
through the testimony of COA Auditor Cortez, that these checks were photocopied from the original checks in the
possession of UCPB, which were obtained through the assistance of the UL management.60 Thus, while the originals

of these checks were not presented, COA Auditor Cortez testified that the photostatic copies were furnished by the
UCPB which had custody of the original checks.61 Further, the witness also testified that at the time she made the
examination of these documents, the entries thereon were legible.62 She also presented a summary schedule of the
various micro film prints of the UCPB checks that she examined.63
At any rate, we observe that the defense never objected64 to the submission of the photostatic copies of the UCPB
checks as evidence, thus making the production of the originals dispensable. This was our view in Estrada v. Hon.
Desierto65 where we ruled that the production of the original may be dispensed with if the opponent does not dispute
the contents of the document and no other useful purpose would be served by requiring its production. In such case,
we ruled that secondary evidence of the content of the writing would be received in evidence if no objection was
made to its reception.66 We note, too, that in addition to the defenses failure to object to the presentation of
photostatic copies of the checks, the petitioner failed to show that the presentation of the originals would serve a
useful purpose, pursuant to our ruling in Estrada.
We reiterate in this regard our earlier observation that other than enumerating instances in the petition where the
State was allegedly deprived of due process in the principal case, no explanation was ever offered by the petitioner
on how each instance resulted in the deprivation of the States right to due process warranting the annulment of the
presently assailed Sandiganbayan ruling.
Fourth. The petitioner faults the special prosecutor for making no effort to produce the "final audit report" dated June
6, 1986, referred to in the last paragraph of the Affidavit67 dated June 10, 1987 of COA Auditor Cortez.
The records show that although this final audit report dated June 6, 1986 was not presented in court, the prosecution
questioned her on the contents of this audit report since she had a hand in its preparation. COA Auditor Cortez
directly testified on the audit teams findings and examination, which took three hearings to complete; the crossexamination of COA Auditor Cortez took two hearings to complete; and subsequently, the Sandiganbayan ordered
that a clarificatory hearing be held with respect to COA Auditor Cortez testimony. In addition to her testimony, the
special prosecutor did present, too, other pieces of documentary evidence (from which the final audit report was
based) before the Sandiganbayan.
Under these circumstances, we are reluctant to consider the special prosecutors omission as significant in the
petitioners allegation of serious nonfeasance or misfeasance.
Fifth. The petitioner presents the special prosecutors failure to oppose the demurrer to evidence as its last point and
as basis for the applicability of the Merciales ruling.
The failure to oppose per se cannot be a ground for grave abuse of discretion. The real issue, to our mind, is whether
the special prosecutor had basis to act as she did. As the point-by-point presentation above shows, the dismissal of
the criminal cases cannot be attributed to any grossly negligent handling by the special prosecutor. To begin with, the
prosecutions case suffered from lack of witnesses because, among others, of the time that elapsed between the act
charged and the start of the actual prosecution in 1994; and from lack of sufficient preparatory investigation
conducted, resulting in insufficiency of its evidence as a whole. In sum, in the absence of circumstances
approximating the facts of Merciales and Valencia, which circumstances the petitioner failed to show, no basis exists
to conclude that the special prosecutor grossly erred in failing to oppose the demurrer to evidence.
Neither are we persuaded by the petitioners position that the special prosecutors Manifestation of non-opposition to
the demurrer needed to be submitted to, and approved by, her superiors.68 The petitioners argument assumes that
the special prosecutor lacked the necessary authority from her superiors when she filed her non-opposition to the
demurrers to evidence. This starting assumption, in our view, is incorrect. The correct premise and presumption,
since the special prosecutor is a State delegate, is that she had all incidental and necessary powers to prosecute the
case in the States behalf so that her actions as a State delegate bound the State. We do not believe that the State
can have an unbridled discretion to disown the acts of its delegates at will unless it can clearly establish that its agent
had been grossly negligent69 or was guilty of collusion with the accused or other interested party,70 resulting in the
States deprivation of its due process rights as client-principal.

Gross negligence exists where there is want, or absence of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire
absence of care. It involves a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.71 As
the above discussions show, the State failed to clearly establish the gross negligence on the part of the special
prosecutor (or to show or even allege that there was collusion in the principal case between the special prosecutor
and the respondents) that resulted in depriving the petitioner of its due process rights; and, consequently prevent the
application of the rule on double jeopardy. If at all, what the records emphasized, as previously discussed, is the
weakness of the prosecutions evidence as a whole rather than the gross negligence of the special prosecutor. In
these lights, we must reject the petitioners position.
III. Grave abuse of discretion
Under the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the Sandiganbayan is under no obligation to require the parties to present
additional evidence when a demurrer to evidence is filed. In a criminal proceeding, the burden lies with the
prosecution to prove that the accused committed the crime charged beyond reasonable doubt, as the constitutional
presumption of innocence ordinarily stands in favor of the accused. Whether the Sandiganbayan will intervene in the
course of the prosecution of the case is within its exclusive jurisdiction, competence and discretion, provided that its
actions do not result in the impairment of the substantial rights of the accused, or of the right of the State and of the
offended party to due process of law.72
A discussion of the violation of the States right to due process in the present case, however, is intimately linked with
the gross negligence or the fraudulent action of the States agent. The absence of this circumstance in the present
case cannot but have a negative impact on how the petitioner would want the Court to view the Sandiganbayans
actuation and exercise of discretion.
The court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, may require or allow the prosecution to present additional evidence
(at its own initiative or upon a motion) after a demurrer to evidence is filed. This exercise, however, must be for good
reasons and in the paramount interest of justice.73 As mentioned, the court may require the presentation of further
evidence if its action on the demurrer to evidence would patently result in the denial of due process; it may also allow
the presentation of additional evidence if it is newly discovered, if it was omitted through inadvertence or mistake, or if
it is intended to correct the evidence previously offered.74
In this case, we cannot attribute grave abuse of discretion to the Sandiganbayan when it exercised restraint and did
not require the presentation of additional evidence, given the clear weakness of the case at that point. We note that
under the obtaining circumstances, the petitioner failed to show what and how additional available evidence could
have helped and the paramount interest of justice sought to be achieved. It does not appear that pieces of evidence
had been omitted through inadvertence or mistake, or that these pieces of evidence are intended to correct evidence
previously offered. More importantly, it does not appear that these contemplated additional pieces of evidence (which
the special prosecutor allegedly should have presented) were ever present and available. For instance, at no point in
the records did the petitioner unequivocally state that it could present the three UL officers, Cueto, Jiao and Sison.
The petitioner also failed to demonstrate its possession of or access to these documents (such as the final audit
report) to support the prosecutions charges the proof that the State had been deprived of due process due to the
special prosecutors alleged inaction.
IIIa. Grave abuse of discretion and the demurrers to evidence
In Criminal Case No. 20345 that charged conspiracy for abstracting P57.59 Million out of the P100 Million KSS fund,
the prosecutions evidence showed that P60 Million of this fund was disbursed by respondent Benitez, as approving
officer, in the nature of cash advances to Zagala (who received a total amount of P40 Million) and Dulay (who
received P20 Million).
To prove the misappropriation, the prosecution tried to establish that there was an irregularity in the procedure of
liquidating these amounts on the basis of COA Auditor Cortez testimony that the liquidation should have been made
before the COA Chairman (not to the resident auditor of the MHS) because these funds were confidential.75

Quite evident from the prosecutions position is that it did not dispute whether a liquidation had been made of the
whole amount of P60 Million; rather, what it disputed was the identity of the person before whom the liquidation
should have been made. Before the directive of former President Marcos was made which declared the KSS funds
(of which the P60 Million formed part) to be confidential, the liquidation of this amount must be made before the
resident auditor of the MHS. With the issuance of the directive, liquidation should have been made to the COA
Chairman who should have then issued a credit memo to prove proper liquidation.76
To justify conviction for malversation of public funds, the prosecution has to prove that the accused received public
funds or property that they could not account for, or was not in their possession and which they could not give a
reasonable excuse for the disappearance of such public funds or property.77 The prosecution failed in this task as the
subject funds were liquidated and were not shown to have been converted for personal use by the respondents.
The records reveal that the amounts of P50 Million and P10 Million were liquidated by Zagala and Dulay,
respectively.78 On Zagalas part, the liquidation of P50 Million (P10 Million of which was the cash advance given to
Dulay) was made to resident auditor Flerida V. Creencia on September 25, 1984 or before the directive of former
President Marcos (declaring the said funds confidential) was issued on November 7, 1984.79 Hence, at the time the
liquidation of the amount was made, the liquidation report submitted to the resident auditor was the proper procedure
of liquidation. Respondent Benitez, for his part, submitted Journal Voucher No. 4350208 dated November 27, 1984
stating, among others, that as early as June 22, 1984, the supporting papers for the liquidation of the P50 Million had
already been submitted to the COA.80
Moreover, even if the liquidation should have been made in compliance with the former Presidents directive, the
prosecutions evidence did not sufficiently establish the non-existence of a credit memo. As admitted by COA Auditor
Cortez, certain documents they were looking for during the audit examination (including the credit memo) could no
longer be located after the (EDSA) revolution.81 She further declared that she did not know if COA Chairman Alfredo
Tantingco complied with the required audit examination of the liquidated P60 Million.82
In Criminal Case No. 20346, respondents are sought to be held liable under the criminal information for
converting P40 Million (subdivided to P21.6 Million, P3.8 Million and P17 Million or a total of P42.4 Million) to their
own use given that these funds were never allegedly transferred to UL, the intended beneficiary.
Records show that the disputed amount allegedly malversed was actually P37,757,364.57 Million because of
evidence that an amount of P4.5 Million was returned by respondent Benitez.83 As previously mentioned, the
documentary evidence adduced reveals the existence of treasury warrants and disbursement vouchers issued in the
name of UL bearing the amounts of P21.6 Million, P3.8 Million and P17 Million.84 Documentary evidence also exists
showing that these amounts were deposited in the UCPB and drawn afterwards by means of checks issued for
purchases intended for the Kabisig Program of the MHS.
Except for the appropriated P17 Million, the petitioners evidence does not sufficiently show how the amounts ofP21.6
Million and P3.8 Million were converted to the personal use by the respondents. The testimony of COA Auditor Cortez
revealed that documents showing the disbursements of the subject funds were in possession of one Flordeliz Gomez
as the Records Custodian and Secretary of UL. For undisclosed reasons, however, COA Auditor Cortez failed to
communicate with Gomez but merely relied on the documents and checks, which the audit team already had in its
possession.85
This omission, in our view, raises doubts on the completeness and accuracy of the audit examination pertaining to
the P21.6 Million and P3.8 Million funds. Such doubt was further strengthened by COA Auditor Cortez testimony
showing that P3.8 Million was listed in the books of the MHS as a direct expense account to which UL is not required
to render an accounting or liquidation.86 Also, she admitted that the amount of P21.6 Million was contained in a
liquidation voucher submitted by Dulay, which was included in the transmittal letter signed by the respondents to the
COA and accompanied by a performance report on the Kabisig Program. This performance report showed that the
total amount of P21.6 Million was exhausted in the Kabisig Program.87
With respect to the P17 Million, evidence adduced showed that 270 units of the motorcycles have already been
transferred in the name of MHS by UL.88 There is also evidence that the audit team initially found nothing irregular in

the documentation of the 500 motorcycles during the audit examination conducted in April 1986; the same goes for
the eight cars purchased.
Under the circumstances, we agree with the Sandiganbayan that registration of these vehicles in ULs name alone did
not constitute malversation in the absence of proof, based on the available evidence, to establish that the
respondents benefited from the registration of these motor vehicles in ULs name, or that these motor vehicles were
converted by the respondents to their own personal use.89 In the end, the prosecutions evidence tended to prove that
the subject funds were actually used for their intended purpose.1wphi1
IV. Conclusion
In dismissing this petition, we observe that the criminal cases might have been prompted by reasons other than injury
to government interest as the primary concern.90 These other reasons might have triggered the hastiness that
attended the conduct of audit examinations which resulted in evidentiary gaps in the prosecutions case to hold the
respondents liable for the crime of malversation.91 As matters now stand, no sufficient evidence exists to support the
charges of malversation against the respondents. Hence, the Sandiganbayan did not commit any grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it granted the demurrers to evidence and, consequently,
dismissed the criminal cases against the respondents.
We take this opportunity to remind the prosecution that this Court is as much a judge in behalf of an accuseddefendant whose liberty is in jeopardy, as it is the judge in behalf of the State, for the purpose of safeguarding the
interests of society.92 Therefore, unless the petitioner demonstrates, through evidence and records, that its case falls
within the narrow exceptions from the criminal protection of double jeopardy, the Court has no recourse but to apply
the finality-of-acquittal rule.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby DENY the petition.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 159450

March 30, 2011

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
OLIVIA ALETH GARCIA CRISTOBAL, Accused-Appellant.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Although a waiver of the right to present evidence by the accused is not a trivial matter to be lightly regarded by the
trial court, the filing of the demurrer to evidence without express leave of court operates as a waiver that binds the
accused pursuant to the express provision of the Rules of Court.
Under challenge in this appeal is the decision promulgated on July 31, 2003 in C.A.-G.R. CR No. 24556, whereby the
Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the conviction for qualified theft of the accused, a teller of complainant Prudential
Bank, and punished her with reclusion perpetua,1 thereby modifying the decision dated May 26, 2000 rendered by the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, in Angeles City (RTC),2 imposing an indeterminate sentence from ten (10) years and
one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum.
Antecedents
The information charged the accused with qualified theft, alleging:

That on or about the 2nd of January, 1996, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, OLIVIA ALETH GARCIA CRISTOBAL, being then the teller of
Prudential Bank, Angeles Main Branch, Sto. Rosario Street, Angeles City, and as such is entrusted with cash and
other accountabilities, with grave abuse of trust and confidence reposed upon her by her employer, with intent to gain
and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
take, steal and carry away cash money amounting to $10,000.00, belonging to the Prudential Bank, Angeles Main
Branch, represented by its Branch Manager, EDGARDO PANLILIO, to the damage and prejudice of Prudential Bank,
Angeles Main Branch, in the aforementioned amount of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS ($10,000.00) or its equivalent of
TWO HUNDRED SIXTY THOUSAND PESOS (P260,000.00), Philippine Currency and parity rate.
ALL CONTRARY TO LAW.3
After the accused pleaded not guilty at arraignment, the State presented four witnesses, namely: Prudential Bank
Branch Manager Edgardo Panlilio, Sr., Bank Auditor Virgilio Frias, Bank Cashier Noel Cunanan, and account holder
Apolinario Tayag.
The summary of the evidence of the State rendered in the assailed decision of the CA follows:4
xxx
Among the six tellers in the Angeles City main branch of Prudential Bank, accused-appellant (hereafter "appellant")
was the only teller assigned to handle dollar deposits and withdrawals.
On January 2, 1996, an internal spot-audit team headed by Prudential Banks senior audit examiner Virgilio Frias
("Frias"), inventoried the cash accountabilities of the said branch by manually counting the money in each of the
tellers cash boxes. While the books of the branch showed that appellant had a cash accountability of $15,040.52, the
money in her cash box was only $5,040.52.
Asked about the shortage of $10,000.00, appellant explained that there was a withdrawal of $10,000.00 on
December 29, 1995 after the cut-off time which would be treated as a withdrawal on January 2, 1996. Appellant then
presented to Frias a withdrawal memo dated January 2, 1996 showing a withdrawal of $10,000.00 from Dollar
Savings Account No. FX-836 ("FX-836") of Adoracion Tayag and her co-signatory, Apolinario Tayag.
On January 3, 1996, appellant showed the aforesaid withdrawal memo to the branch cashier, Noel Cunanan
("Cunanan"). Noticing that the said withdrawal memo did not contain the required signatures of two bank officers,
Cunanan asked appellant what the nature of the transaction was. Appellant replied that the depositor, Apolinario
Tayag, had instructed her to withdraw $10,000.00 from his account on January 3, 1996, through his driver whom he
had sent to the bank. Cunanan, however, did not notice that while the withdrawal was supposed to have been made
on January 3, 1996, the withdrawal memo was dated January 2, 1996. Cunanan then instructed appellant to have the
withdrawal posted in the corresponding ledger and to bring the withdrawal memo back to him so he and the branch
manager, Edgardo Panlilio, could affix their signatures.
Meanwhile, Frias checked the account ledger of FX-836, and found a "hold jacket" indicating that no withdrawal from
the said account should be allowed to reduce its balance below $35,000.00. The supposed withdrawal of $10,000.00
had reduced the account balance of FX-836 to $26,077.51.
From the account ledger, Frias also discovered that a deposit of $10,000.00 was made on January 2, 1996. He found
the deposit memo on file. Thereafter, Frias compared the signature on the withdrawal memo with the specimen
signatures of the depositors in their signature card. Finding a "big difference" in the signatures, he referred the matter
to the branch manager, Edgardo Panlilio ("Panlilio").
Asked by Panlilio to explain, appellant reiterated that the withdrawal was made after the cut-off time on December 29,
1995. Doubting her explanation, Frias conducted another cash count. At that time, appellants accountability based on
the books of the bank was $21,778.86, but the money in her cash box was only $11,778.86, thus, short of

US$10,000.00. When Panlilio again asked appellant to explain, the latter started to cry and said she would explain to
the bank president.
The next day, January 4, 1996, appellant told Panlilio that she gave the $10,000.00 to a person on December 29,
1995 because her family was being threatened.
In her letter to the bank president dated January 4, 1996, appellant apologized and explained her shortage of
$10,000.00 and another shortage of P2.2 Million which the audit team had also discovered. She wrote:
Sometime in the month of September, a man approached me at my counter and handed me a note demanding me
(sic) to give him a big amount of money of P600,000. I looked at him and told him I dont have any. He told me to get
at my drawer and not to tell anybody because their companions are at the nearby of my house (sic) and threatened
me that something will happened (sic) to my kids. That time he looked back and I also saw another man w/ radio at
his waist, who stood up and went out. I nervously handed him the money. While doing this, I tried to pull the alarm at
my counter but it was out of order. This alarm was out of order for quite sometime but I was still hoping it might work.
Since that day, time and again, he kept on coming back and I couldnt do anything but to give in to his request. His
second, he demanded for (sic) another P600,000 but I gave him only P530,000. The 3rd & 4th was P550,000 each.
Last December 29, 1995 at around 3:00 pm, I was surprised to see him at my counter, again, he was asking for
money. I was balancing my dollar transaction. But that time, I had delivered my peso cash box to our cashier. He saw
the bundle of $10,000 which was on top of my desk because I was writing the breakdown on my cash count. He
wanted me to give it to him & this time he pointed a gun at me and I got so nervous & gave him the dollars.
During this time, in order for me to be balance with (sic) my transactions, I cash out checks (suppose to be for late
deposit) & included them in todays clearing. The following day, I validated the deposit slips as cash deposit. . .
Apolinario Tayag denied withdrawing $10,000.00 from FX-836 either on December 29, 1995 or on January 2, 1996
when he was in Baguio City. He said he was not familiar with the withdrawal and deposit memos showing the
withdrawal of $10,000.00 from the said account and the subsequent deposit of the same amount therein. He also
denied the signatures thereon as his or his mothers.
xxx
Upon the State resting its case against the accused, her counsel filed a Demurrer to Evidence and Motion to Defer
Defense Evidence,5 praying for the dismissal of the charge on the ground that the evidence of the State did not
suffice to establish her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the RTC denied the Demurrer to Evidence and Motion to Defer Defense Evidence and deemed the case
submitted for decision on the basis that her filing her demurrer to evidence without express leave of court as required
by Section 15, Rule 119, of the Rules of Court had waived her right to present evidence, viz: 6
WHEREFORE, the Demurer to Evidence filed by the accused is hereby denied for lack of merit.
Reviewing further the records of this case, there is evidence and proof that the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the
accused Cristobal is without express leave of court hence, under Section 15 par. 2 of Rule 119, accused Cristobal
has waived her right to present evidence and submit the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the
prosecution.
In view thereof, this case filed against accused Cristobal is hereby submitted for decision.
SO ORDERED.
On May 26, 2000, therefore, the RTC rendered its decision finding and pronouncing the accused guilty of qualified
theft,7 disposing:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Olivia Aleth Cristobal guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Qualified Theft
and hereby sentences her to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor to
twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum.
Accused Cristobal is also ordered to pay Prudential Bank, the amount of US $10,000.00, representing the amount
that was lost, plus interest.
SO ORDERED.
The accused appealed, but the CA affirmed her conviction on July 31, 2003, albeit modifying the penalty,8 finding and
ruling as follows:
The following circumstances as established by the prosecutions evidence, show beyond reasonable doubt that
appellant stole US$10,000.00 from Prudential Bank:
1. Appellant was the only teller in the Angeles City main branch of Prudential Bank assigned to handle dollar
transactions. Thus, it was only she who had access to the subject account for purposes of dollar deposits
and withdrawals;
2. She admitted having transacted or processed the supposed withdrawal of US$10,000.00 from dollar
savings account no. FX-836;
3. It was she who presented to the head auditor, Rolando Frias, the withdrawal memo for US$10,000.00
supposedly withdrawn from dollar savings account no. FX-836, saying that it was withdrawn on December
29, 1995 after the cut-off time and would be considered a withdrawal on January 2, 1996;
4. The said withdrawal memo did not contain the required signatures of two bank officers;
5. The supposed withdrawal of $10,000.00 from dollar savings account no. FX-836 reduced the balance
thereof to P26,077.51, violating the "hold jacket" or instruction in the account ledger which disallowed any
withdrawal from the said account that would reduce the balance thereof below P35,000.00;
6. The discrepancy in the signature on the withdrawal memo and the specimen signatures in the depositors
signature card;
7. Asked to explain the shortage of $10,000.00 revealed by the second cash count, following the discovery
of the aforesaid "hold jacket" in the account ledger and discrepancy in the signatures, appellant began to
cry, saying she would just explain to the bank president;
8. The depositor, Apolinario Tayag, denied withdrawing money from dollar savings account no. FX-836 either
on December 29, 1995, when appellant claimed the withdrawal was made, or on January 2, 1996, the date
of the withdrawal memo, at which time he was in Baguio City. He was not familiar with the withdrawal and
deposit memos showing the withdrawal of $10,000.00 from the said account and the subsequent deposit of
the same amount therein. He also denied that the signatures thereon belong to him or his mother, Adoracion
Tayag, with whom he shares the account as co-signatory;
9. In her letter to the bank president, she admitted appropriating US$10,000.00 and P2.2 Million, and
explained how she covered it up;
10. Appellant gave different and inconsistent explanations for her shortage of US$10,000.00. She explained
to the auditors that the said amount was withdrawn on December 29, 1995 after the cut-off time, hence,
would be considered as a withdrawal on January 2, 1996. To the branch cashier, Noel Cunanan, she said
that Apolinario Tayag had instructed her to withdraw $10,000.00 from his account on January 3, 1996,

through his driver whom he had sent to the bank. Later, she told Panlilio and the bank president that she
gave the $10,000.00 to a person on December 29, 1995 because he had threatened her family; and
11. In her letter to the bank president, she mentioned five instances when the unidentified man supposedly
threatened her and demanded money from her. However, she never reported any of these incidents to any
of the bank officers or the police authorities.
Even without an eyewitness, the foregoing circumstances indicate that appellant committed the crime, to the
exclusion of all others.
In the absence of an eyewitness, reliance on circumstantial evidence becomes inevitable. Circumstantial evidence is
defined as that which indirectly proves a fact in issue through an inference which the factfinder draws from the
evidence established. Resort thereto is essential when the lack of direct testimony would, in many cases, result in
setting a felon free and denying proper protection to the community. In order that circumstantial evidence may be
sufficient to convict, the same must comply with these essential requisites, viz., (a) there is more than one
circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the
circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
As hereinbefore shown, there is more than one circumstance or indication of appellants guilt. Moreover, the said
circumstances, from which the act of taking could be inferred, had been established by the prosecutions evidence.
And the combination of the said circumstances is clearly sufficient to convict the appellant of qualified theft beyond
reasonable doubt.
In conclusion, We hold that the totality of the evidence points to no other conclusion than that accused-appellant is
guilty of the crime charged. Evidence is weighed not counted. When facts or circumstances which are proved are not
only consistent with the guilt of the accused but also inconsistent with his innocence, such evidence, in its weight and
probative force, may surpass direct evidence in its effect upon the court. This is how it is in this case.
xxx
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision convicting the accused-appellant of Qualified Theft is
hereby AFFIRMEDwith MODIFICATION in that the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua and the accessory penalties of
death under Article 40 of the Revised Penal Code, and accused-appellant shall pay Prudential Bank US$10,000.00,
withoutinterest.
SO ORDERED.
Issues
In her appeal, the accused submits that the CA gravely erred:
1. xxx in affirming the conviction of the accused on the basis of an information for qualified theft that charges
the accused to have taken $10,000.00 on January 2, 1996 when the evidence on record based on various
admissions of the prosecution's witnesses reveal that the accused did not and cannot take away $10,000.00
on January 2, 1996.
2. xxx in affirming the conviction of the accused based on an extra-judicial admission that was made without
assistance of counsel and hearsay evidence as testified by the next most possible suspects to the loss.
3. xxx in affirming the conviction of the accused when the facts and evidence on record do not satisfy the
elements of the crime as charged.

4. xxx in affirming the conviction of the accused when the very procedure employed by the trial court in the
case at bench showed leniency to the prosecution and strictness to the defense in violation of the
constitutional and statutory rights of the accused.
5. xxx in affirming the ruling of the trial court that the accused had waived her right to present evidence-inchief despite the expressed motion to defer its presentation when the demurrer to evidence was filed.9
The assigned errors are restated thuswise:
(a) Whether the information filed against the accused was fatally defective;
(b) Whether the RTC correctly found that the accused had waived her right to present evidence in her
defense; and
(c) Whether the extrajudicial admission of taking the amount involved contained in the letter of the accused
to the President of Prudential Bank was admissible under the rules and jurisprudence.
Ruling
We deny the petition for review and affirm the CAs decision.
1.
Findings of CA and RTC are affirmed
due to being based on the evidence
There is no question about the findings of fact being based on the evidence adduced by the Prosecution. The
decisions of both lower courts are remarkable for their thoroughness and completeness. In fact, the accused did not
impugn the findings of fact, and confined herself only to the validity of the information and the legality of her letter due
to its being held admissible as evidence against her. Although she decried her failure to present her evidence on
account of her having demurred without express leave of court, that, too, was not an obstacle to the correctness of
the findings of fact against her. Thus, we sustain the findings of fact, for findings of the CA upon factual matters are
conclusive and ought not to be disturbed unless they are shown to be contrary to the evidence on record.10
2.
Information was sufficient and valid
The petitioner submits that the information charged her with qualified theft that allegedly transpired on December 29,
1995, but the evidence at trial could not be the basis of her conviction because it actually proved that the taking had
transpired on January 2, 1996; and that the discrepancy would unduly prejudice her rights as an accused to be
informed of the charges as to enable her to prepare for her defense. To bolster her submission, she cites the
testimony of Virgilio Frias11 to the effect that she was cleared of her accountability upon her turning her cash box over
to the bank cashier on December 29, 1995, thereby negating the accusation that she had taken the money on
December 29, 1995.
The petitioners submission is untenable.
The main purpose of requiring the various elements of a crime to be set forth in the information is to enable the
accused to adequately prepare her defense.12 As to the sufficiency of the allegation of the time or date of the
commission of the offense, Section 6 and Section 11, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Court, the rules
applicable,13 provide:

Section 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the
accused; the designation of the offense by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the
offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate time of the commission of the offense; and the place
wherein the offense was committed.
When an offense is committed by more than one person, all of them shall be included in the complaint or information.
(5a)
Section 11. Time of the commission of the offense. It is not necessary to state in the complaint or information the
precise time at which the offense was committed except when time is a material ingredient of the offense, but the act
may be alleged to have been committed at any time as near to the actual date at which the offense was committed as
the information or complaint will permit. (10)
Conformably with these rules, the information was sufficient because it stated the approximate time of the
commission of the offense through the words "on or about the 2nd of January, 1996," and the accused could
reasonably deduce the nature of the criminal act with which she was charged from a reading of its contents as well as
gather by such reading whatever she needed to know about the charge to enable her to prepare her defense.
The information herein did not have to state the precise date when the offense was committed, considering that the
date was not a material ingredient of the offense. As such, the offense of qualified theft could be alleged to be
committed on a date as near as possible to the actual date of its commission.14 Verily, December 29, 1995 and
January 2, 1996 were dates only four days apart.
With the information herein conforming to the standard erected by the Revised Rules of Court and pertinent judicial
pronouncements, the accused was fully apprised of the charge of qualified theft involving the US$10,000.00
belonging to her employer on or about January 2, 1996.
3.
CA and RTC did not err in deeming petitioner
to have waived her right to present evidence
The accused contended that:
xxx
(2) The trial court denied accused (sic) Demurrer To Evidence and Motion To Defer Defense Evidence and ruled that
the accused is considered to have waived her evidence (for alleged lack of leave of court). Although the accused is
not principally relying on this error (because the prosecutions own evidence show that she is not guilty), still it was
error for the trial court to deprive the accused of her day in court because the demurrer was at the same time, as
stated in the title thereof, also a motion to defer defense evidence.15
The CA rejected her contention in the following manner:16
As to whether or not the Trial Court correctly ruled that appellant waived the presentation of her evidence when she
filed her "Demurrer To Evidence and Motion to Defer Evidence" without prior leave of court, We rule in the affirmative.
Appellants theory that prior leave of court had been requested because her demurrer was, at the same time, also a
motion to defer defense evidence, cannot be sustained. A motion to defer evidence does not constitute a request for
leave to file a demurrer to evidence. In fact, such motion indicates that appellant wanted the Trial Court
to consider the demurrer before proceeding to hear her evidence. Furthermore, there is nothing in appellants
Demurrer from which it can be inferred that appellant was asking the Trial Court permission to move for the dismissal
of the case.

Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:


Sec. 15. Demurrer to Evidence. After the prosecution has rested its case, the court may dismiss the case on the
ground of insufficiency of evidence: (1) on its own initiative after giving the prosecution an opportunity to be heard; or
(2) on motion of the accused filed with prior leave of court.
If the court denies the motion for dismissal, the accused may adduce evidence in his defense. When the accused
files such motion to dismiss without express leave of court, he waives the right to present evidence and
submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. (Emphasis supplied.)
Clearly, when the accused files such motion to dismiss without express leave of court, he waives the right to present
evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. In such a case, the
waiver of the right to present defense evidence is unqualified.
Unavoidably, Our attention is drawn to the apparent negligence of appellants counsel in failing to secure prior leave
of court before filing her Demurrer to Evidence. However, We cannot lose sight of the fact that in law, the negligence
of appellants counsel binds her. Indeed, jurisprudence teems with pronouncements that a client is bound by the
conduct, negligence and mistakes of his counsel.
The CA did not thereby err.
The rule in point is Section 15, Rule 119, of the Revised Rules of Court, viz:
Section 15. Demurrer to evidence. After the prosecution has rested its case, the court may dismiss the case on the
ground of insufficiency of evidence: (1) on its own initiative after giving the prosecution an opportunity to be heard; or
(2) on motion of the accused filed with prior leave of court.
If the court denies the motion for dismissal, the accused may adduce evidence in his defense. When the accused
files such motion to dismiss without express leave of court, he waives the right to present evidence and submits the
case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution. (n)
Under the rule, the RTC properly declared the accused to have waived her right to present evidence because she did
not obtain the express leave of court for her demurrer to evidence, thereby reflecting her voluntary and knowing
waiver of her right to present evidence. The RTC did not need to inquire into the voluntariness and intelligence of the
waiver, for her opting to file her demurrer to evidence without first obtaining express leave of court effectively waived
her right to present her evidence.
It is true that the Court has frequently deemed the failure of the trial courts to conduct an inquiry into the voluntariness
and intelligence of the waiver to be a sufficient cause to remand cases to the trial courts for the purpose of
ascertaining whether the accused truly intended to waive their constitutional right to be heard, and whether they
understood the consequences of their waivers.17 In People v. Bodoso,18 a prosecution for a capital offense, we leaned
towards the protection of the accuseds constitutional right to due process by outlining the proper steps to be taken
before deeming the right to present evidence as waived, thus:
Henceforth, to protect the constitutional right to due process of every accused in a capital offense and to avoid any
confusion about the proper steps to be taken when a trial court comes face to face with an accused or his counsel
who wants to waive his clients right to present evidence and be heard, it shall be the unequivocal duty of the trial
court to observe, as a prerequisite to the validity of such waiver, a procedure akin to a "searching inquiry" as specified
in People v. Aranzado when an accused pleads guilty, particularly
1. The trial court shall hear both the prosecution and the accused with their respective counsel on the desire
or manifestation of the accused to waive the right to present evidence and be heard.

2. The trial court shall ensure the attendance of the prosecution and especially the accused with their
respective counsel in the hearing which must be recorded. Their presence must be duly entered in the
minutes of the proceedings.
3. During the hearing, it shall be the task of the trial court to
a. ask the defense counsel a series of question to determine whether he had conferred with and
completely explained to the accused that he had the right to present evidence and be heard as well
as its meaning and consequences, together with the significance and outcome of the waiver of
such right. If the lawyer for the accused has not done so, the trial court shall give the latter enough
time to fulfill this professional obligation.
b. inquire from the defense counsel with conformity of the accused whether he wants to present
evidence or submit a memorandum elucidating on the contradictions and insufficiency of the
prosecution evidence, if any, or in default theory, file a demurrer to evidence with prior leave of
court, if he so believes that the prosecution evidence is so weak that it need not even be rebutted.
If there is a desire to do so, the trial court shall give the defense enough time to this purpose.
c. elicit information about the personality profile of the accused, such as his age, socio-economic
status, and educational background, which may serve as a trustworthy index of his capacity to give
a free and informed waiver.
d. all questions posed to the accused should be in a language known and understood by the latter,
hence, the record must state the language used for this purpose as well as reflect the
corresponding translation thereof in English.
In passing, trial courts may also abide by the foregoing criminal procedure when the waiver of the right to be present
and be heard is made in criminal cases involving non-capital offenses. After all, in whatever action or forum the
accused is situated, the waiver that he makes if it is to be binding and effective must still be exhibited in the case
records to have been validly undertaken, that is, it was done voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently with sufficient
awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences. As a matter of good court practice, the trial court
would have to rely upon the most convenient, if not primary, evidence of the validity of the waiver which would
amount to the same thing as showing its adherence to the step-by-step process outlined above.
Also, in Rivera v. People,19 which involved an accused charged with a non-capital offense who filed a demurrer to
evidence without leave of court, the Court, citing People v. Bodoso, supra, remanded the case to the Sandiganbayan
for further proceedings upon finding that the accused had
not been asked whether he had understood the consequences of filing the demurrer to evidence without leave of
court.
Yet, the accused cannot be extended the benefit of People v. Bodoso and Rivera v. People. The factual milieus that
warranted the safeguards in said criminal cases had nothing in common with the factual milieu in which the RTC
deemed the herein accused to have waived her right to present evidence. The accused in People v. Bodoso, without
filing a demurrer to evidence, expressly waived the right to present evidence. The Court felt that the trial court ought
to have followed the steps outlined therein. The accused in Rivera v. People filed a demurrer to evidence without
having to obtain an express leave of court, considering that the Sandiganbayan itself had told him to file the demurrer
to evidence. Thus, after the demurrer to evidence was denied, the accused was held to be still entitled to present his
evidence.
The accused and her counsel should not have ignored the potentially prejudicial consequence of the filing of a
demurrer to evidence without the leave of court required in Section 15, Rule 119, of the Revised Rules of
Court.20They were well aware of the risk of a denial of the demurrer being high, for by demurring the accused
impliedly admitted the facts adduced by the State and the proper inferences therefrom.21 We cannot step in now to

alleviate her self-inflicted plight, for which she had no one to blame but herself; otherwise, we may unduly diminish
the essence of the rule that gave her the alternative option to waive presenting her own evidence.
4.
Petitioners handwritten letter
is admissible in evidence
The next issue concerns the admissibility of the accuseds letter dated January 4, 1996 to Prudential Banks
President explaining the shortage of her dollar collection as bank teller,22 the relevant portion of which follows:
xxx Sometime in the month of September, a man approached me at my counter and handed me a note demanding
me (sic) to give him a big amount of money of P600,000. I looked at him and told him I dont have any. He told me to
get at my drawer and not to tell anybody because their companions are at the nearby of my house (sic) and
threatened me that something will happened (sic) to my kids. That time he looked back and I also saw another man
w/ radio at his waist, who stood up and went out. I nervously handed him the money. While doing this, I tried to pull
the alarm at my counter but it was out of order. This alarm was out of order for quite sometime but I was still hoping it
might work. Since that day, time and again, he kept on coming back and I couldnt do anything but to give in to his
request. His second, he demanded for (sic) another P600,000 but I gave him only P530,000. The 3rd & 4th was
P550,000 each. Last December 29, 1995 at around 3:00 pm, I was surprised to see him at my counter, again, he was
asking for money. I was balancing my dollar transaction. But that time, I had delivered my peso cash box to our
cashier. He saw the bundle of $10,000 which was on top of my desk because I was writing the breakdown on my
cash count. He wanted me to give it to him & this time he pointed a gun at me and I got so nervous & gave him the
dollars.
During this time, in order for me to be balance with (sic) my transactions, I cash out checks (suppose to be for late
deposit) & included them in todays clearing. The following day, I validated the deposit slips as cash deposit xxx.
The accused submits that the letter was inadmissible for being in reality an uncounselled extrajudicial confession, and
for not being executed under oath.
The submission lacks persuasion.
The letter was not an extrajudicial confession whose validity depended on its being executed with the assistance of
counsel and its being under oath, but a voluntary party admission under Section 26,23 Rule 130 of the Rules of Court
that was admissible against her. An admission, if voluntary, is admissible against the admitter for the reason that it is
fair to presume that the admission corresponds with the truth, and it is the admitters fault if the admission does
not.24 By virtue of its being made by the party himself, an admission is competent primary evidence against the
admitter.25
Worth pointing out is that the letter was not a confession due to its not expressly acknowledging the guilt of the
accused for qualified theft. Under Section 30,26 Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, a confession is a declaration of an
accused acknowledging guilt for the offense charged, or for any offense necessarily included therein.
Nonetheless, there was no need for a counsel to have assisted the accused when she wrote the letter because she
spontaneously made it while not under custodial investigation. Her insistence on the assistance of a counsel might be
valid and better appreciated had she made the letter while under arrest, or during custodial investigation, or under
coercion by the investigating authorities of the Government. The distinction of her situation from that of a person
arrested or detained and under custodial investigation for the commission of an offense derived from the clear intent
of insulating the latter from police coercion or intimidation underlying Section 12 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the
1987 Constitution, which provides:
Section 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of
his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person

cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing
and in the presence of counsel.
(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be
used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are
prohibited.
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in
evidence against him.
(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violations of this section as well as compensation
to and rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices, and their families.
To reiterate, the rights under Section 12, supra, are available to "any person under investigation for the commission of
an offense." The phrase does not cover all kinds of investigations, but contemplates only a situation wherein "a
person is already in custody as a suspect, or if the person is the suspect, even if he is not yet deprived in any
significant way of his liberty."27 The situation of the accused was not similar to that of a person already in custody as a
suspect, or if the person is the suspect, even if she is not yet deprived in any significant way of his liberty.
5.
Penalty was correctly determined
We quote and adopt with approval the CAs discourse on why the penalty of reclusion perpetua was appropriate for
the offense committed by the accused, to wit:
The foregoing considered, appellants conviction must perforce be affirmed. The sentence imposed by the Trial Court
should, however, be modified.
The Trial Court sentenced the appellant to imprisonment of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The correct penalty, however, should bereclusion
perpetua with the accessory penalties of death under Article 40 of the Revised Penal Code.
Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code provides that qualified theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by
two degrees than those specified in Article 309 of the Revised Penal Code. Paragraph (1) of Article 309 states that if
the value of the thing stolen exceeds P22,000, the penalty shall be the maximum period of prision mayor in its
minimum and medium periods, and one year for each P10,000.00 in excess of P22,000.00, but the total of the
penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years (or reclusion temporal).
Appellant stole US$10,000.00 or P262,140.00 computed based on the exchange rate on December 29, 1995 when
the appropriation took place.
Under Article 309, the basic penalty is prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods to be imposed in the
maximum period since the amount stolen exceeded P22,000.00. To determine the additional years of imprisonment
prescribed in Article 309 (1), the amount of P22,000.00 should be deducted from P262,140.00, thus, leaving the
amount of P240,140.00. The net amount should then be divided by P10,000.00, disregarding any amount below
P10,000.00. The result is the incremental penalty of twenty-four (24) years which must then be added to the basic
penalty of the maximum period of prision mayor minimum and medium periods. The penalty ofprision mayor in its
minimum and medium periods has a range of six years (6) and one (1) day to ten (10) years. Its maximum period is
eight (8) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to ten (10) years, and the incremental penalty is twenty-four (24)
years. Had appellant committed simple theft, the penalty should have been twenty years of reclusion temporal, the
maximum penalty allowable under Article 309, subject to the Indeterminate Sentence Law.

Considering that the theft is qualified by grave abuse of confidence, the penalty is two degrees higher than that
specified under Article 309. Under Article 25 of the Revised Penal Code, two degrees higher than reclusion
temporal is death. However, Article 74 of the same Code provides that in cases in which the law prescribes a penalty
higher than another given penalty, without specifically designating the name of the former, and if such higher penalty
should be that of death, the same penalty and the accessory penalties of Article 40, shall be considered as the next
higher penalty.1wphi1
The Supreme Court held that in such a case, the accused should be meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua for forty
years with the accessory penalties of death under Article 40 of the Revised Penal Code.
WHEREFORE, we deny the petition for review on certiorari, and affirm the decision promulgated on July 31, 2003 in
CA-G.R. CR No. 24556.
SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. RTJ-11-2289
October 2, 2012
(Formerly A.M. OCA lPI No. 11-3656-RTJ)
Re: Anonymous Letter dated August 12, 2010, complaining against Judge Ofelia T. Pinto, Regional Trial
Court, Branch 60, Angeles City, Pampanga.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
An anonymous letter-complaint dated August 12, 2010 was filed before the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)
against Judge Ofelia T. Pinto, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angeles City, Pampanga.
Judge Pinto was charged with dishonesty, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Gross Misconduct in
violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and knowingly rendering an unjust judgment in connection with the
reopening of a criminal case whose decision was already final and executory and subject of an entry of judgment in
the Court of Appeals (CA). The anonymous letter-complaint narrated that despite the finality of the decision in
Criminal Case No. 91-937, Judge Pinto granted the motion filed by the convicted accused (at large) to reopen the
case and to adduce evidence in his behalf.
Subsequently, the OCA required Judge Pinto to comment on the anonymous letter-complaint. Judge Pinto alleged
that the outright denial of the motion to reopen the case was improper, without violating the accuseds opportunity to
be heard, given the exculpatory evidence presented and considering the lack of objection by the public prosecutor
and the private complainant who were properly notified of the motion. Judge Pinto also alleged that even granting
that her acts were indeed erroneous, they were done in the exercise of her adjudicative functions which cannot be
made subject of a disciplinary, civil or criminal action absent fraud, dishonesty and corruption on her part.
The Recommendation of the OCA
The OCA found the anonymous letter-complaint meritorious. The OCA observed that Judge Pinto misapplied the law
despite the clear wordings of Section 24, Rule 119 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The OCA also
found that Judge Pinto subsequently disregarded the final and executory decision of the CA, a higher court, when she
dismissed the criminal case against the accused-movant. The OCA recommended, thus
RECOMMENDATION: It is respectfully recommended for the consideration of the Honorable Court that:
1. The Anonymous Complaint dated 12 August 2010 be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter; and
2. Judge Ofelia T. Pinto, Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Angeles City, Pampanga, be HELD GUILTYof Gross
Ignorance of the Law and Procedure and be SUSPENDED from service without salary and other benefits for a period

of Six (6) Months (Sec. 89, in relation to Sec. 11[A(2.)], Rule 140, id.) with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of
the same or similar infraction shall be dealt with utmost severity. [emphases and italics supplied]
In the Resolution dated August 3, 2011, the Court re-docketed the anonymous letter-complaint and required the
parties to manifest if they were willing to submit the matter for resolution on the basis of the pleadings filed. In
response, Judge Pinto filed a Manifestation and a Supplemental Comment where she stressed her good faith and
honest intention to prevent a miscarriage of justice, which led her to disregard the mandatory character of the rule on
the reopening of criminal cases. She offered her sincere apologies to the Court and pleaded for compassion and
understanding.
The Courts Ruling
Except for the recommended penalty, we agree with the findings of the OCA.
"To be able to render substantial justice and maintain public confidence in the legal system, judges should be
embodiments of competence, integrity and independence."1 Judges are also "expected to exhibit more than just a
cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules and to apply them properly in all good faith".2 Judges are
"likewise expected to demonstrate mastery of the principles of law, keep abreast of prevailing jurisprudence, and
discharge their duties in accordance therewith."3 The records clearly show that the conduct exhibited by Judge Pinto
deviated from these exacting standards.
Judge Pinto had no jurisdiction to entertain the motion filed by the accused-movant to reopen Criminal Case No. 91937 because the CAs decision, which affirmed the accused-movants conviction, had become final and executory.
Judge Pintos conduct was contrary to the clear language of Section 24, Rule 119 of the 2000 Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure which provides that the reopening of a criminal case may only be availed of "at any time before
finality of the judgment of conviction:"
Sec. 24. Reopening. At any time before finality of the judgment of conviction, the judge may, motu proprio or upon
motion, with hearing in either case, reopen the proceedings to avoid a miscarriage of justice. The proceedings shall
be terminated within thirty (30) days from the order granting it. [italics supplied]
In other words, a motion to reopen a criminal case is not the proper procedural recourse when there is already a final
judgment of conviction. This rule is consistent with the doctrine of finality of judgment which Judge Pinto failed to
apply. "The doctrine of finality of judgment, which is grounded on fundamental considerations of public policy and
sound practice, dictates that at the risk of occasional error, the judgments of the courts must become final and
executory at some definite date set by law."4 In this case, the final decision of the CA should have been given effect.
Moreover, Judge Pinto should have respected the final decision of a higher court, instead of replacing it with her own
decision.5 We have previously ruled that a judge cannot amend a final decision, more so where the decision was
promulgated by an appellate court.6 As aptly observed by the OCA:
Judge Pinto ought to know her place in the judicial ladder. In Lamberto P. Villaflor vs. Judge Romanito A. Amatong
(A.M. No. MTJ-00-1333, November 15, 2000), the High Court could not have been more emphatic, thus: "Inferior
courts must be modest enough to consciously realize the position that they occupy in the interrelation and operation
of the integrated judicial system of the nation. Occupying as (she) does a court much lower in rank than the Court of
Appeals, (Judge Ofelia Tuazon Pinto) owes respect to the latter and should, of necessity, defer to the orders of the
higher court. The appellate jurisdiction of a higher court would be rendered meaningless if a lower court may, with
impunity, disregard and disobey it.7 (italics supplied)
In the first place, even granting that there is an available procedural remedy to question the final decision of the CA,
such procedural recourse is beyond the scope of Judge Pintos judicial authority. The matter of the accused-movants
denial of due process, as the case may be, should have been brought up to the CA or with the Court in an
appropriate petition. Judge Pinto cannot relax mandatory rules to justify the award of judicial reliefs that are beyond
her judicial authority to give.

Even granting that Judge Pinto had been motivated by good intentions leading her to disregard the laws and rules of
procedure, these personal motivations cannot relieve her from the administrative consequences of her actions as
they affect her competency and conduct as a judge in the discharge of her official functions.
We have previously held that when a law or a rule is basic, judges owe it to their office to simply apply the
law.8"Anything less is gross ignorance of the law."9 There is gross ignorance of the law when an error committed by
the judge was "gross or patent, deliberate or malicious."10 It may also be committed when a judge ignores, contradicts
or fails to apply settled law and jurisprudence because of bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.11Gross ignorance
of the law or incompetence cannot be excused by a claim of good faith.121wphi1
In this case, Judge Pintos utter disregard to apply settled laws and rules of procedure constitutes gross ignorance of
the law which merits administrative sanction. Section 8(9), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court classifies gross ignorance
as a serious charge with the following imposable penalties:
1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification
from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government-owned or controlled corporations.
Provided, however, that the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;
2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months;
or
3. A fine of more than P 20,000.00 but not exceeding P 40,000.00.13
We note that this not the first time that we found Judge Pinto administratively liable. We found her liable in two other
administrative cases. In Pineda v. Pinto,14 the Court reprimanded Judge Pinto for charges of gross inefficiency and
neglect of duty. In A1arcos v. Pinto,15 we found Judge Pinto liable of simple misconduct and imposed a fine in the
amount of P 10,000.00 for charges of gross ignorance of the law, partiality and knowingly rendering an unjust
judgment/order.
In both cases, we sternly warned Judge Pinto that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more
severely. Judge Pinto's continued failure to live up to the exacting standards of her office is clear.16 Her escalating
violations, taken collectively, raise the question of her competency in continuing to perform the functions of a
magistrate.17 Bearing this in mind and the warnings she earlier received from the Court, we find the imposition of the
supreme penalty of dismissal from the service justified.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judge Ofelia T. Pinto, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60,
Angeles City, Pampanga, is found GUlLTY of Gross Ignorance of the Law and is hereby DISMISSED FROM THE
SERVICE, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment
in any branch, agency or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. Nos. 185729-32

June 26, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER,


vs.
THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN (FOURTH DIVISION), ANTONIO P. BELICENA, ULDARICO P. ANDUTAN,
JR., RAUL C. DE VERA, ROSANNA P. DIALA AND JOSEPH A. CABOTAJE, RESPONDENTS.
DECISION
ABAD, J.:

This case arose from the issuance of two Tax Credit Certificates in favor of JAM Liner, Inc. which were investigated
and found fraudulent by the Presidential Task Force 156, created by then President Joseph E. Estrada.
The Facts and the Case
The principal respondent in this case, Homero A. Mercado, was the President of JAM Liner, Inc. The other
respondents, Antonio A. Belicena, Uldarico P. Andutan Jr., Raul C. De Vera, and Rosanna P. Diala, were Department
of Finance (DOF) officials formerly assigned at its One-Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Drawback Center
(DOF One-Stop Shop).
Sometime in 2000, showing willingness to testify against the criminal syndicate that allegedly ran the tax credit scam
at the DOF One-Stop Shop, Mercado applied with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for immunity as state witness
under its witness protection program. On June 5, 2000 the DOJ favorably acted on the application and granted
immunity to Mercado. Still, since the investigation of the case fell within the authority of the Office of the Ombudsman
(Ombudsman), the latter charged him and the other respondents before the Sandiganbayans Fourth Division with
violations of Section 3(j) of Republic Act (R.A.) 3019 and two counts of falsification under Article 171, paragraph 4, of
the Revised Penal Code in Criminal Cases 27511-14.
The first information alleged that respondent DOF officials approved and issued in 1996 Tax Credit Certificate 7711
for P7,350,444.00 in favor of JAM Liner, Inc. for domestic capital equipment although it did not qualify for such tax
credit. The second Information alleged that they further illegally issued in 1996 Tax Credit Certificate 7708
for P4,410,265.50 in favor of the same company covering its purchase of six Mitsubishi buses.
Mercado filed a motion for reconsideration or reinvestigation before the Ombudsman, citing the DOJs grant of
immunity to him. Acting favorably on the motion, on September 4, 2003 the Ombudsman executed an Immunity
Agreement1 with Mercado. The agreement provided that, in consideration for granting him immunity from suit,
Mercado would produce all relevant documents in his possession and testify against the accused in all the cases,
criminal or otherwise, that may be filed against them. Accordingly, on the same date, the Ombudsman filed a motion
to discharge Mercado2 from the information involving him.
But on April 30, 2008 the Sandiganbayan issued a Resolution,3 denying the Ombudsmans motion. That court held
that the pieces of evidence adduced during the hearing of the Ombudsmans motion failed to establish the conditions
required under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court for the discharge of an accused as a state witness. The
Ombudsman filed a motion for reconsideration but the court denied it on November 6, 2008,4 hence, this petition of
the People of the Philippines.
Issue Presented
The central issue that this case presents is whether or not the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in
refusing to recognize the immunity from criminal prosecution that the Ombudsman granted respondent Mercado and,
as a result, in declining to discharge him from the information as a state witness.
Ruling of the Court
In denying the Ombudsmans motion to drop Mercado from the information, the Sandiganbayan largely dwelt on the
question of whether or not the prosecution complied with the requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Rules of
Criminal Procedure.
Respondents De Vera and Diala, Mercados co-accused who opposed the grant of immunity to him, contend that the
immunity that the Ombudsman gave Mercado does not bind the court, which in the meantime already acquired
jurisdiction over the case against him. That immunity merely relieves Mercado from any further proceedings, including
preliminary investigation, which the state might still attempt to initiate against him.5
This in a way is true. But the filing of the criminal action against an accused in court does not prevent the
Ombudsman from exercising the power that the Congress has granted him. Section 17 of R.A. 6770 provides:

Section 17. Immunities. x x x Under such terms and conditions as it may determine, taking into account the
pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court, the Ombudsman may grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any
person whose testimony or whose possession and production of documents or other evidence may be necessary to
determine the truth in any hearing, inquiry or proceeding being conducted by the Ombudsman or under its authority,
in the performance or in the furtherance of its constitutional functions and statutory objectives. The immunity granted
under this and the immediately preceding paragraph shall not exempt the witness from criminal prosecution for
perjury or false testimony nor shall he be exempt from demotion or removal from office.
His above authority enables the Ombudsman to carry out his constitutional mandate to ensure accountability in the
public service.6 It gives the Ombudsman wide latitude in using an accused discharged from the information to
increase the chances of conviction of the other accused and attain a higher prosecutorial goal.7 Immunity statutes
seek to provide a balance between the states interests and the individuals right against self-incrimination. To secure
his testimony without exposing him to the risk of prosecution, the law recognizes that the witness can be given
immunity from prosecution.8 In such a case, both interests and rights are satisfied.
As it happened in this case, the Ombudsman had already filed with the Sandiganbayan the criminal action against
Mercado and the other respondents in Criminal Cases 27511-14 prior to the Ombudsmans grant of immunity to
Mercado. Having already acquired jurisdiction over Mercados case, it remained within the Sandiganbayans power to
determine whether or not he may be discharged as a state witness in accordance with Section 17, Rule 119 of the
Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The Ombudsman premised its grant of immunity to Mercado on his undertaking to produce all the documents in his
possession relative to the DOF tax credit scam and to testify in all pending criminal, civil, and administrative cases
against those involved. Indeed, he had consistently cooperated even prior to immunity agreement in the investigation
and prosecution of the case. His testimony gave the prosecution a clearer picture of the transactions that led to the
issuance of the subject certificates.
In any event, the question before the Sandiganbayan was whether or not Mercado met, from its point of view, the
following requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 for the discharge of an accused to be a state witness: (a) there is
absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested; (b) there is no other direct
evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused; (c) the
testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points; (d) said accused does not appear
to be the most guilty; and (e) said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral
turpitude.
The authority to grant immunity is not an inherent judicial function.9 Indeed, Congress has vested such power in the
Ombudsman as well as in the Secretary of Justice. Besides, the decision to employ an accused as a state witness
must necessarily originate from the public prosecutors whose mission is to obtain a successful prosecution of the
several accused before the courts. The latter do not as a rule have a vision of the true strength of the prosecutions
evidence until after the trial is over. Consequently, courts should generally defer to the judgment of the prosecution
and deny a motion to discharge an accused so he can be used as a witness only in clear cases of failure to meet the
requirements of Section 17, Rule 119.
Here, the Sandiganbayan held that Mercados testimony is not absolutely necessary because the state has other
direct evidence that may prove the offenses charged. It held that Mercardos testimony, in large part, would only help
(1) identify numerous documents and (2) disclose matters that are essentially already contained in such documents.
But the records, particularly Mercados consolidated affidavit, show that his testimony if true could be indispensable in
establishing the circumstances that led to the preparation and issuance of fraudulent tax credit certificates. Indeed,
nobody appears to be in a better position to testify on this than he, as president of JAM Liner, Inc., the company to
which those certificates were issued. This is what he said in that affidavit:
Sometime in June 1997, Joseph Cabotaje went to Jam Compound office, approached Jerry Mapalo, the liaison
officer of Jam Liner and claimed that as a former salesman of Diamond Motor Corporation, he could facilitate the
release of the tax credit. He was brought to my office and impressed upon me that he could do the work as he

personally knows the top brass in the Center, like Raul De Vera, Assistant Executive Director; Uldarico Andutan, Jr.,
Deputy Director and Undersecretary Antonio Belicena.
xxxx
x x x He asked for a fee of 20% of the amount of the tax credit and explained that this amount he would still share
with his "connections" in the Center.
As Jam Liner[s] application with the Center for the 16 Mitsubishi bus units was pending, and having nobody to turn
to, my liaison officer recommended that I accept the offer of services of Cabotaje. There was nothing written about
the arrangement and it was with the understanding of "no cure no pay," meaning Cabotaje would only be paid after
the tax credit certificates were released.
Sometime in July 1997, Cabotaje handed to me tax credit certificates for P4.4 million and P7.3 million in favor of Jam
Liner. I believed that these certificates were approved upon the intercession and through the efforts of Cabotaje. The
tax credit certificates were issued on June 30, 1997.
The 2 TCCs were received and handed to me by Mr. Cabotaje. When he presented the TCCs to me, I noticed that
the amount was bigger than what we were supposed to get. In my estimate, there was an over evaluation of about
20% equivalent to P100,000.00 per unit, more or less.10
During direct examination by the Sandiganbayan, Mercado also testified that:
AJ Ponferrada:
The question is, what is unusal about that document?
Answer.
Mr. Mercado:
It says here, date complied, when we havent given anything to the Department of Finance except for those we filed
originally on April 11, sir. We have not submitted any document related in this application other than those we
originally filed on April 11, sir. But it says here, dated (sic) complied, June 26, so, it means, for us, that we have
complied with their requirements while we did not give any additional documents to them, Your Honors (sic).
xxxx
Q:
What else did you notice aside from the date of suspension?
A:
The date of suspension, sir, was April 13, a few days after we filed the application and on the third page of Exhibit
"KKK-2". If I may repeat my testimony before, this amount is much bigger than those we filed with the Department of
Finance. But the engine and chassis number are the same except for the amount, which was noted toP4,094,000.00,
sir.11 x x x
The decision to move for the discharge of Mercado was part of prosecutorial discretion in the determination of who
should be used as a state witness to bolster the successful prosecution of criminal offenses. Unless made in clear
violation of the Rules, this determination should be given great weight by our courts. As this Court held in People v.
Court of Appeals:12

The Rules do not require absolute certainty in determining those conditions. Perforce, the Judge has to rely in a large
part upon the suggestions and the considerations presented by the prosecuting officer.
"A trial judge cannot be expected or required to inform himself with absolute certainty at the very outset of the trial as
to everything which may be developed in the course of the trial in regard to the guilty participation of the accused in
the commission of the crime charged in the complaint. If that were practicable or possible, there would be little need
for the formality of a trial. In coming to his conclusions as to the necessity for the testimony of the accused whose
discharge is requested, as to the availability or non-availability of other direct or corroborative evidence; as to which
of the accused is the most guilty one; and the like, the judge must rely in a large part upon the suggestions and the
information furnished by the prosecuting officer. x x x."13 (Emphasis supplied)
What is more, the criminal informations in these cases charge respondents with having conspired in approving and
issuing the fraudulent tax credit certificates. One rule of wisdom is that where a crime is contrived in secret, the
discharge of one of the conspirators is essential so he can testify against the others.14 Who else outside the
conspiracy can testify about the goings-on that took place among the accused involved in the conspiracy to defraud
the government in this case?15 No one can underestimate Mercados testimony since he alone can provide a detailed
picture of the fraudulent scheme that went into the approval and issuance of the tax credit certificates.1wphi1 The
documents can show the irregularities but not the detailed events that led to their issuance. As correctly pointed out
by the prosecution, Mercados testimony can fill in the gaps in the evidence.
Respondents further contend that Mercado should not be granted immunity because he also benefited from the
unlawful transactions. But the immunity granted to Mercado does not blot out the fact that he committed the offense.
While he is liable, the State saw a higher social value in eliciting information from him rather than in engaging in his
prosecution.16
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition, SETS ASIDE the Sandiganbayans Resolutions of April 30 and
November 6, 2008 in Criminal Cases 27511-14, and ORDERS the discharge of accused Homero A. Mercado from
the criminal information to be used as state witness.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 209195

September 17, 2014

MANUEL J. JIMENEZ, JR., Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 209215
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
MANUEL J. JIMENEZ, JR., Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before the Court are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
assailing the amended decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 121167 entitled Manuel J. Jimenez,
Jr. v. Hon. Zaldy B. Docena et al.

The CA did not find any grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court (RTC Branch 170, Malabon)
Judge Zaldy B. Docena (Judge Docena)in issuing the order which granted the People of the Philippines motion to
discharge Manuel A. Montero (Montero)as a state witness in Criminal Case No. 39225-MN.
The G.R. No. 209195petition was filed by Manuel J. Jimenez, Jr. (Jimenez). He prays in this petition for the reversal
of the CAs amended decision insofar as it ruled that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in issuing the
assailed order.
The People likewise filed its petition, docketed as G.R. No. 209215. This petition seeks to reverse the amended
decision of the CA insofar as it ordered the re-raffle of the criminal case to another RTC judge for trial on the merits.
The Factual Antecedents
On May 18, 2009 and June 11, 2009, Montero (a former employee of the BSJ Company owned by the Jimenezes)
executed sworn statements confessing his participation in the killing ofRuby Rose Barrameda (Ruby Rose),and
naming petitioner Jimenez, Lope Jimenez (Lope, the petitioner Jimenezs younger brother),Lennard A. Descalso
(Lennard) alias "Spyke," Robert Ponce (Robert) alias "Obet," and Eric Fernandez (Eric), as his coconspirators.2
The statements of Montero which provided the details on where the alleged steel casing containing the body of Ruby
Rose was dumped, led to the recovery of a cadaver, encased ina drum and steel casing, near or practically at the
place that Montero pointed to.3
On August 20, 2009, the People, through the state prosecutors, filed an Information before the RTC, charging
Jimenez, Lope, Lennard, Robert, Eric and Montero of murder for the killing of Ruby Rose.4
Montero thereafter filed a motion for his discharge entitled "Motion for the Discharge of the Witness as Accused
Pursuant to the Witness Protection Program" pursuant to Republic Act No. 6981. The People also filed a motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness for the prosecution. Jimenez opposed both motions.5
The RTCs ruling
On March 19, 2010, the RTCs Acting Presiding Judge Hector B. Almeyda (Judge Almeyda)denied the motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness.6
Judge Almeyda ruled that the prosecution failed to comply with the requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for the discharge of an accused as a state witness; it failed to clearly show that
Montero was not the most guilty or, at best, the least guilty among the accused. The judge further ruled that
Monteros statements were not corroborated by the other evidence on record. The prosecution, too, failed to present
evidence to sustain the possibility of conviction against Jimenez.7
Montero and the People filed separate motions for reconsideration.
The July 30, 2010 order
On July 30, 2010, Judge Docena, the newly-appointed regular judge, reconsidered and reversed Judge Almeydas
order and ruled that the prosecution had presented clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence showing compliance
with the requisites of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
According to Judge Docena, the crime would have remained undiscovered and unsolved had it not been for
Monteros extrajudicial confession that narrated in detail the manner of the abductionand subsequent murderof Ruby
Rose. As the crime was committed in secret, only one of the co-conspirators, such asMontero, could give direct
evidence identifying the other coconspirators.

Judge Docena further ruled that Montero is qualified tobe discharged as a state witness as he does not appear to be
the most guilty although he is a principal by direct participation. The principals by inducement are more guilty
because, without their orders, the crime would not have been committed. Finally, Montero has not been convicted of
any crime involving moral turpitude. Jimenez moved for the reconsideration of Judge Docenas ruling.8
The December 29, 2010 order
During the pendency of the motion for reconsideration, Jimenez filed a motion for inhibition, praying that Judge
Docena inhibit himself from hearing the case on the ground of bias and prejudice. Judge Docena denied the motion
in his order of December 29, 2010.9
The June 29, 2011 order
On June 29, 2011, Judge Docena issued an omnibus order: 1) denying the petitioners motion for reconsideration of
the July 30, 2010 order; 2) denying the petitioners motion for reconsideration of the December 29, 2010 order; and 3)
granting Manuel Jimenez IIIs alternative motion to suspend the proceedings, as his inclusion in the Information was
still pending final determination by the Office of the President.
Jimenez responded to these adverse rulings by filing with the CA a petition for certiorariunder Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court. The petition sought the annulment of Judge Docenas orders dated July 30, 2010, December 29, 2010, and
June 29, 2011. The petition also prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary
injunction that the CA both granted in its resolutions of December 8, 2011 and February 6, 2012, respectively.10
The CAs Decision
On May 22, 2012, the CAs then Tenth Division, through the ponencia of Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio
(concurred in by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla) rendered a
decision granting Jimenez petition.11
However, on motion for reconsideration filed by the People, the CA reversedits earlier ruling and issued anAmended
Decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes.
The CAs Amended Decision
The CA held that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in ordering Monteros discharge to become a
state witness because the prosecution had complied with the requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure.12
First, Judge Docena acted in accordance with settled jurisprudence when he ruled that there was absolute necessity
for the testimony of Montero as no other direct evidence other than his testimony was available. Additionally, since
the determination of the requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is
highly factual in nature, Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of discretion in largely relying on the
recommendation of the prosecution to discharge Montero as a state witness.13
Furthermore, the CA agreed with Judge Docena that Montero is not the most guilty among the accused because the
principals by inducement are more guilty than the principals by direct participation. To the CA, this finding is highly
factual in nature and it would not interfere with the trial courts exercise of discretion on factual issues in the absence
of showing that the court had acted with grave abuse of discretion.14
On Judge Docenas no inhibition order, the CA held that while the case does not call for mandatory inhibition, it
should still be raffled to another sala for trial on the meritsto avoid any claim of bias and prejudice.15
The CA likewise dismissed the motion for the issuance of a show cause order which Jimenez filed against Judge
Docena.16

Both Jimenez and the People moved for partial reconsideration of the CAs order but these motions were all
denied.17 The denials prompted both parties to file with this Court the present consolidated petitions for review on
certiorari.
The Present Petitions
I. G.R. No. 209195 (The Jimenez Petition)
Jimenez raises the following errors:
First, there is no necessity to discharge Montero as a state witness because: 1) the voluntary sworn extrajudicial
confessions of Montero are all in the possession of the prosecution which they could readily present in court without
discharging Montero; and 2) there was unjust favoritism in the discharge of Montero because all the other
conspirators are equally knowledgeable of the crime.18
Second, contrary to the CAs ruling, the judge, and not the prosecution, has the ultimate discretion in ensuring that
the requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 are complied with.19 Third, the cases the CA cited are factually different
from the present case. Chua v. CA20 should not apply as it deals with two accused, one of whom was ordered
discharged.21 Fourth, Monteros testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its material points as the
prosecutions own evidence contradicts his declarations.
These inconsistencies include: Monteros statement that a "busal" was placed inside the mouth of Ruby Rose; this
statement is belied by the other prosecution witness; Montero also never mentioned the presence of a packaging
tape wrapped around the head and neck of the recovered cadaver; in Monteros sinumpaang salaysay, he stated that
Ruby Rose was killed by strangulation using a "lubid" but the death certificate stated asphyxia by suffocation and not
by strangulation; the identification of the cadaver as Ruby Rose is likewise questionable as there are differences in
the height, and the dental and odontological reports of Ruby Rose and the recovered cadaver.
Jimenez argued that these inconsistencies would require a thorough scrutiny; hence, the immediate discharge of
Montero as a state witness is suspicious.22
Fifth, Montero appears to be the mostguilty. He was the architect who designed and actively participated in all phases
of the alleged crime.23
Jimenez further argued that there is no authority supporting the ruling that the principals by inducement are more
guilty than the principal by direct participation. On the contrary, the Revised Penal Code imputes on the principal by
direct participation the heavier guilt; without the latters execution of the crime, the principal byinducement cannot be
made liable. Even if the principal by inducement is acquitted, the principal by direct participation can still be held liable
and not vice-versa.24
Sixth, the discharge of Montero was irregular because Judge Docena failed to conduct a prior hearing.25
Finally, Montero already executed a notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony which was submitted to the CA.26
Comment of the People
The People argued that Jimenez is now estopped from raising the lack of hearing as an issue since he raised this
issue only after Judge Docena granted the motion to discharge and not after Judge Almeyda denied the motion an
action that was favorable to him.27
It also argued that Jimenez actively participated in the proceedings for Monteros discharge as the trial court received
evidence for and against the discharge. In this light, Judge Docenas order granting or denying the motion for
discharge is in order, notwithstanding the lack of actual hearing.28

The People also agreed with the CAs amended ruling that the requirements for the discharge of anaccused as a
state witness were complied with.29 It added that the availability of the extrajudicial statements in the prosecutions
possession is not a ground to disqualify an accused from being a state witness.30
It further maintained that the alleged contradictions between Monteros statements and other prosecutions evidence
are better resolved during trial and are irrelevant tothe issues in the present case.31
For purposes of the present case, the material allegations of Montero on the identity of the victim and the manner of
her killing were substantially corroborated by the presence of the recovered original steel casing, the drum containing
a cadaver, the place where it was found, and the cadavers apparel.32
The People observed that Montero had already testified on direct examination on June 28, 2011 and October 25,
2011. He attested and affirmed his statements in his affidavits dated May 18 and June 11, 2009; he narrated in his
statements the murder of Ruby Rose and Jimenez participation.33
Reply of Jimenez
Jimenez reiterated his allegations in the comment. He added that Montero did not identify or authenticate his sworn
statements in support of the motion for his discharge.34
According to Jimenez, the notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony of Montero rendered his discharge as a
state witness moot and academic.35
II. G.R. No. 209215(The Peoples Petition)
The People, through the Office of the Solicitor General, argue that the CAs order to re-raffle the case to another sala
is not supported by Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court, either under mandatory or voluntary inhibition. 36
To disqualify a judge from hearing a case, bias and prejudice must be proven, in the manner being done in cases of
voluntary inhibition.37
Jurisprudence establishes, too, that affiliation does not necessarily translate to bias.38 A judges non-favorable action
against the defense is not also necessarily indicative of bias and prejudice.39
Finally, the administrative case filed against Judge Docena is not a ground to disqualify him from hearing the case.40
Comment of Jimenez
The option for voluntary inhibition does not give judges unlimited discretion to decide whether or not they will desist
from hearing a case. Jimenez enumerated Judge Docenas acts that allegedly constituted bias and prejudice:
First, Judge Docena granted the motion to discharge even though the legal requirements under Section 17, Rule 119
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure were not factually and legally proven. He also relied on the suggestions
and information of the prosecutors thereby surrendering his duty to ensure that the requirements for a discharge are
duly complied with.
Second, in a previous case where his fraternity brother appeared as counsel, Judge Docena inhibited himself from
hearing the case. Thus, no reason exists for him not to similarly act in the present case where Jimenez is his
fraternity brother and State Prosecutor Villanueva was his classmate.
Third, Judge Docena granted the prosecutions motion for cancellation of the September 29, 2011 hearing because
the state prosecutor would be attending a legal forum. This was improper since other prosecutors were available and
other prosecution witnesses could be presented. Fourth, Judge Docena has an uncontrolled temper and

unexplainable attitude. In Jimenez bail hearing, Judge Docena immediately shouted at Jimenez counsel whenhe
made a mistake.41 The Issues
1) Whether or not the CA erred in ruling that Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
granting the motion to discharge Montero as a state witness; and
2) Whether or not the CA erred in ordering the re-raffle of Criminal Case No. 39225-MN toanother RTC
branch for trial on the merits.
THE COURTS RULING:
G.R. No. 209195
We agree with the CAs ruling that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion when he granted the motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness.
The well-settled rule is that a petition for certiorariagainst a court which has jurisdiction over a case will prosper only
ifgrave abuse of discretion is clear and patent. The burden is on the part of the petitioner to prove not merely
reversible error, but grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public
respondent issuing the impugned order. Notably, mere abuse of discretion is not enough; the abuse must be grave.
Jurisprudence has defined "grave abuse of discretion" as the 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.42
We agree with the CA that the prosecution has complied with the requisites under Section 17,Rule 119 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides that:
In the discharge of an accused inorder that he may be a state witness, the following conditions must be present,
namely:
(1) Two or more accused are jointly charged with the commission of an offense;
(2) The motion for discharge isfiled by the prosecution before it rests its case;
(3) The prosecution is required to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness
at a hearing in support of the discharge;
(4) The accused gives his consent to be a state witness; and
(5) The trial court is satisfied that:
a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested; b)
There is no other directevidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed,
except the testimony of said accused;
c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and,
e) Said accused has not atany time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
No issues have been raised with respect to conditions (1), (2), (4), and 5(e). The parties dispute the compliance with
conditions (3) and 5(a) to (d) as the issues before us. We shall discuss these issues separately below.

Absolute necessity of the testimony of Montero


We see no merit in Jimenezs allegation that no absolute necessity exists for Monteros testimony.
Absolute necessity exists for the testimony of an accused sought to be discharged when he or she alone has
knowledge of the crime. In more concrete terms, necessity is not there when the testimony would simply corroborate
or otherwise strengthen the prosecutions evidence.43 We do not agree with Jimenez that the Courts pronouncement
in Chua v. CA et al.is inapplicable in the present case simply because more than two accused are involved in the
present case. The requirement of absolute necessity for the testimony of a state witness depends on the
circumstances of each case regardless of the number of the participating conspirators.
In People v. Court of Appeals and Perez et al.,44 the Court ordered the discharge of the accused Roncesvalles, ruling
that his testimony is absolutely necessary to prove conspiracy with his other co-accused. The Court agreed with the
Solicitor General that considering the circumstances of the case and that the other accused could not be compelled
to testify, certain facts necessary for the conviction of the accused would not come to light unless the accused
Roncesvalles was allowed to testify for the State. Specifically, unless accused Roncesvalles was allowed to testify for
the government, there would be no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense charged,
particularly on the role of his co-accused in the preparation and completion of the falsified loan application and its
supporting papers.
Similarly in People v. Court of Appeals and Tan,45 the Court reinstated the ruling of the trial court which ordered the
discharge of accused Ngo Sin from among the five accused. The record justified his discharge as a state witness
considering the absolutenecessity of his testimony to prove that the accused Luciano Tan had planned and financed
the theft.
In the present case, not one ofthe accused-conspirators, except Montero, was willing to testify on the alleged murder
of Ruby Rose and their participation in her killing. Hence, the CA was correct in ruling that Judge Docena acted
properly and in accordance with jurisprudence in ruling that there was absolute necessity for the testimony of
Montero. He alone is available to provide directevidence of the crime.
That the prosecution could use the voluntary statements of Montero without his discharge as a state witness is not an
important and relevant consideration. To the prosecution belongs the control of its case and this Court cannot dictate
on its choice in the discharge of a state witness, save only when the legal requirements have not been complied with.
The prosecutions right to prosecute gives it "a wide range of discretion the discretion of whether, what and whom
to charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors which are best appreciated by prosecutors."
Under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court is given the power to discharge a
state witness only after it has already acquired jurisdiction over the crime and the accused.46
Monteros testimony can be substantially corroborated
We also do not find merit in Jimenez argument that Monteros testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its
material points and is even contradicted by the physical evidence of the crime. As the trial court properly found, the
evidence consisting of the steel casing where the cadaver was found; the drum containing the cadaver which the
prosecution successfully identified (and which even the acting Judge Almeyda believed) to be Ruby Rose; the spot in
the sea that Montero pointed to (where the cadaver was retrieved); the apparel worn by the victim when she was
killed as well as her burned personal effects, all partly corroborate some of the material points in the sworn
statements of Montero.47
With these as bases, Judge Docenas ruling that Monteros testimony found substantial corroboration cannot
becharacterized as grave abuse of discretion.
Jimenez points to the discrepancies in Monteros statements and the physical evidence, such as the absence of
"busal"in the mouth of the retrieved cadaver; his failure to mention that they used packaging tape wrapped around the

head down to the neck of the victim; and his declaration that the victim was killed through strangulation using a rope
(lubid).
However, the corroborated statements of Montero discussed above are far more material than the inconsistencies
pointed outby Jimenez, at least for purposes of the motion to discharge.
The alleged discrepancies in the physical evidence, particularly on the height and dental records of Ruby Rose, are
matters that should properly be dealt with during the trial proper.
We emphasize at this point that to resolve a motion to discharge under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, the Rules only require that that the testimony ofthe accused sought to be discharged be
substantially corroborated in its material points, not on all points.
This rule is based on jurisprudential line that in resolving a motion to discharge under Section 17, Rule 119, a trial
judge cannot be expected or required, at the start of the trial, to inform himself with absolute certainty of everything
that may develop in the course of the trial with respect to the guilty participation of the accused. If that were
practicable or possible, there would be little need for the formality of a trial.48
Montero is not the most guilty
We also do not agree with Jimenez that the CA erred in finding that Montero is not the most guilty.
By jurisprudence, "most guilty" refers to the highest degree of culpability in terms of participation in the commission of
the offense and does not necessarily mean the severity of the penalty imposed. While all the accused may be given
the same penalty by reason of conspiracy, yet one may be considered to have lesser orthe least guilt taking into
account his degree of participation in the commission of the offense.49
What the rule avoids is the possibility that the most guilty would be set free while his co-accused who are less guilty
in terms of participation would be penalized.50
Before dwelling on the parties substantive arguments, we find it necessary to first correct the rulings of the CA that
are not exactly correct.
Contrary to the CAs findings, a principal by inducement is not automatically the most guilty in a conspiracy. The
decision of the Court in People v. Baharan51 did not involve the resolution of a motion to discharge an accused to
become a state witness. Instead, the pronouncement of the Court related to the culpability of a principal by
inducement whose coinducement act was the determining cause for the commission of the crime.
Thus viewed, Baharan cannot be the basis of a peremptory pronouncement that a principal by inducement is more
guilty than the principal by direct participation.
In Chua v. People,52 which involved a motion to discharge an accused, the Court declared that if one induces another
to commit a crime, the influence is the determining cause of the crime. Without the inducement, the crime would not
have been committed; it is the inducer who sets into motion the execution of the criminal act.
To place the Chua ruling in proper perspective, the Court considered the principal by inducement as the most guilty
based on the specific acts done by the two accused and bearing in mind the elements constitutive of the crime of
falsification of private documents where the element of "damage" arose through the principal by inducements
encashment of the falsified check. This led the Court to declare that the principal by inducement is the "most guilty"
(or properly, the more guilty) between the two accused.
Thus, as a rule, for purposes of resolving a motion to discharge an accused as a state witness,what are controlling
are the specific acts of the accused in relation to the crime committed.

We cannot also agree with Jimenez argument that a principal by direct participation is more guilty than the principal
by inducement as the Revised Penal Code penalizes the principal by inducement only when the principal by direct
participation has executed the crime.
We note that the severity of the penalty imposed is part of the substantive criminal law which should not be equated
with the procedural rule on the discharge of the particeps criminis. The procedural remedy of the discharge of an
accused is based on other considerations, such as the need for giving immunity to one of several accused in order
that not all shall escape, and the judicial experience that the candid admission of an accused regarding his
participation is a guaranty that he will testify truthfully.53
On the substantive issues of the present case, we affirm the CA ruling that no grave abuse of discretion transpired
when Judge Docena ruled that Montero is not the most guilty.
We draw attention to the requirement that a state witness does not need to be found to be the least guilty; he or she
should not only "appear to be the most guilty."54
From the evidence submitted by the prosecution in support of its motion to discharge Montero, it appears that while
Montero was part of the planning, preparation, and execution stage as most of his co-accused had been, he had no
direct participation inthe actual killing of Ruby Rose. While Lope allegedly assigned to him the execution of the killing,
the records do not indicate that he had active participation in hatching the plan to kill Ruby Rose, which allegedly
came from accused Lope and Jimenez, and in the actual killing of Ruby Rose which was executed by accused
Lennard.55 Monteros participation was limited to providing the steel box where the drum containing the victims body
was placed, welding the steel box to seal the cadaver inside, operating the skip or tug boat, and, together with his coaccused, dropping the steelbox containing the cadaver into the sea.
At any rate, the discharge of anaccused to be utilized as a state witness because he does not appear to bethe most
guilty is highly factual in nature as it largely depends on the appreciation of who had the most participation in the
commission of the crime. The appellate courts do not interfere in the discretionary judgment ofthe trial court on this
factual issue except when grave abuse ofdiscretion intervenes.56
In light of these considerations, we affirm the ruling of the CA that Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in ruling that Montero is not the most guilty.
The discharge of Montero as a state witness was procedurally sound
We agree with the People that Jimenez is estopped from raising the issue of lack of hearing prior to the discharge of
Montero asa state witness. Jimenez did not raise this issue when Acting Judge Almeyda denied the motion to
discharge. This denial, of course, was favorable toJimenez. If he found no reason to complain then, why should we
entertain his hearingrelated complaint now?
The People even supported its argument that Jimenez actively participated in the proceedings of the motion to
discharge such as his filing of a 20-page opposition to the motion; filing a reply to the Peoples comment; submitting
his memorandum of authorities on the qualification of Montero as state witness; and filing a consolidated opposition
on the Peoples and Monteros motion for reconsideration of Judge Almeydas order.57
In these lights, Jimenez cannot impute grave abuse of discretion on Judge Docena for not conducting a hearing prior
to his grant of the motion to discharge. In People v. CA and Pring,58 the Court ruled that with both litigants able to
present their sides,the lack of actual hearing is not sufficiently fatal to undermine the court's ability to determine
whether the conditions prescribed for the discharge ofan accused as a state witness have been satisfied. Contrary to
Jimenez argument, the Pringruling is applicable in the present case. In Pring, the sworn statements of the accused
sought to be discharged (Nonilo Arile), together with the prosecutions other evidence, were already in the possession
of the court and had been challenged by the respondent in his Opposition to Discharge Nonilo Arile and in his Petition
for Bail. The issue in that case was the propriety of the trial courts resolution of the motion to discharge Nonilo Arile
without conducting a hearing pursuant Section 9, Rule 119 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure (now Section 17,
Rule 119 ofthe Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure).

With Jimenez active participation in the proceeding for the motion to discharge as outlined above, the ruling of the
Court in Pringshould squarely apply.
Monteros Notice of Withdrawal of Consent is not material in the resolution of the present case
We find no merit in Jimenez argument that Monteros submission of his notice of withdrawal of consent and
testimony of Manuel dated February 26, 2013 rendered the present case moot, since the Court cannot consider this
document in this petition.
It must be recalled that the present case involves an appellate review of the CAs decision which found no grave
abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Docena in granting the motion to discharge.
Under the present recourse now before this Court, we cannot rule on the notice of withdrawal and consider it in ruling
on the absence or presence of grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the assailed orders. The present case is
not the proper venue for the determination of the value of the notice.
This conclusion is all the more strengthened by the fact that Montero already testified on direct examination on June
28, 2011 and October 25, 2011. He attested and affirmed his statements in his affidavits dated May 18 and June 11,
2009; he not only narrated the grisly murder of Ruby Rose, but also revealed Jimenez participation in the murder.
With this development, the notice may partake of the nature of a recantation, which is usually taken ex parte and is
considered inferior to the testimony given in open court. It would be a dangerous rule to reject the testimony taken
before a court of justice simply because the witness who gave it later changed his/her mind.59
In sum on this point, the appreciation of the notice of withdrawal properly belongs to the trial court.
Interplay between the judge and prosecutor in the motion to discharge an accused to become a state witness
As a last point, we find it necessary to clarify the roles of the prosecution and the trial court judge in the resolution of a
motion to discharge an accused as a state witness.This need arises from what appears to us to be a haphazard use
of the statement that the trial court judge must rely in large part on the prosecutions suggestion in the resolution of a
motion to discharge.
In the present case, the CA cited Quarto v. Marcelo60 in ruling that the trial court must rely in large part upon the
suggestions and the information furnished by the prosecuting officer, thus:
A trial judge cannot be expected orrequired to inform himself with absolute certainty at the very outset of the trial as to
everything which may be developed in the course of the trial in regard to the guilty participation of the accused in the
commission of the crime charged in the complaint. If that were practicable or possible there would be little need for
the formality of a trial. He must rely inlarge part upon the suggestions and the information furnished by the
prosecuting officer in coming to his conclusions as to the "necessity for the testimony of the accused whose
discharge is requested"; asto the availability or non-availability of other direct or corroborative evidence; as to which
of the accused is "most guilty," and the like.
We deem it important to place this ruling in its proper context lest we create the wrong impression that the trial court
is a mere "rubber stamp" of the prosecution, in the manner that Jimenez now argues.
In Quarto, we emphasized that it is still the trial court that determines whether the prosecutions preliminary
assessment of the accused-witness qualifications to be a state witness satisfies the procedural norms. This
relationship is in reality a symbiotic one as the trial court, by the very nature of its role in the administration of justice,
largely exercises its prerogative based on the prosecutors findings and evaluation.61
Thus, we ruled in People v. Pring62 that in requiring a hearing in support of the discharge, the essential objective of
the law is for the court to receive evidence for or against the discharge, which evidence shall serve as the courts

tangible and concrete basis independently of the fiscal's or prosecution's persuasions in granting or denying the
motion for discharge. We emphasize, in saying this, that actual hearing is not required provided that the parties have
both presented their sides on the merits of the motion.1wphi1
We likewise do not agree with Jimenez that Quartoshould not apply to the present case, since the principles laid
down in that case similarly operate in the present case, specifically, on issue of the procedural processes required in
the discharge of the accused as a state witness.
G.R. No. 209215
We find the Peoples petition meritorious.
We note at the outset that the CA did not provide factual or legal support when it ordered the inhibition ofJudge
Docena. Additionally, we do not find Jimenez arguments sufficiently persuasive.
The second paragraph of Section 1 of Rule 137 does not give judges the unlimited discretion to decide whether or not
to desist from hearing a case. The inhibition must be for just and valid causes. The mere imputation of bias or
partiality is likewise not enough ground for their inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis.63
It is well-established that inhibition is not allowed at every instance that a schoolmate or classmate appears before
the judge as counsel for one of the parties. A judge, too, is not expected to automatically inhibit himself from acting in
a case involving a member of his fraternity, such as Jimenez in the present case.64
In the absence of clear and convincing evidenceto prove the charge of bias and prejudice, a judges ruling not to
inhibit oneself should be allowed to stand.65
In attributing bias and prejudice to Judge Docena, Jimenez must prove that the judge acted or conducted himself in a
manner clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice soas to defeat the attributes of the cold neutrality that an
impartial judge must possess.Unjustified assumptions and mere misgivings that the judge acted with prejudice,
passion, pride and pettiness in the performance of his functions cannot overcome the presumption that a judge shall
decide on the merits of a case with an unclouded vision of its facts.66
In the present case, Jimenez allegation of bias and prejudice is negated by the CA finding in its amended decision,
as affirmed by this Court, that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in granting the motion to discharge.
We support this conclusion as the cancellation of the September 29, 2011 hearing is not clearly indicative of bias and
prejudice.
On the allegation that Judge Docena's uncontrollable temper and unexplainable attitude should be considered as a
factor, we note that the allegations and perceptions of bias from the mere tenor and language of a judge is insufficient
to show prejudgment. Allowing inhibition for these reasons would open the floodgates to abuse. Unless there is
concrete proof that a judge has a personal interest in the proceedings, and that his bias stems from an extra-judicial
source, the Court would uphold the presumption that a magistrate shall impartially decide the merits of a case.67
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition in G.R. No. 209195 and affirm the CA's amended decision in CA-G.R. SP No.
121167 insofar as it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Docena in granting the People's motion
to discharge Montero as a state witness.
We GRANT the petition in G.R. No. 209215 and modify the CA's amended decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 121167 in
accordance with our ruling that Judge Docena's denial of the motion for inhibition was proper.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 187728

September 12, 2011

CHURCHILLE V. MARI and the PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioners,


vs.
HON. ROLANDO L. GONZALES, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 39, Sogod, Southern Leyte,
and PO1 RUDYARD PALOMA y TORRES, Respondents.
DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
This resolves the Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, praying that the Order1 of the Regional
Trial Court of Sogod, Southern Leyte (RTC), dated January 16, 2009, dismissing the criminal case for rape against
PO1 Rudyard Paloma y Torres (private respondent), and the Resolution2 dated March 16, 2009, denying petitioners'
motion for reconsideration, be annulled and set aside.
The records reveal the following antecedent facts.
On October 25, 2004, petitioner AAA, private complainant below, executed a sworn statement before an Investigator
of the 8th Regional Office, Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in
Tacloban City, where she stated that she was raped by herein private respondent on October 10, 2004 at her
boarding house at Sogod, Southern Leyte. A preliminary investigation of the case was commenced on November 4,
2004 before the Presiding Judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Sogod. A warrant of arrest was issued
against private respondent, so he voluntarily surrendered to the Chief of Police of Sogod on November 18, 2004 and
was then incarcerated at the Sogod Municipal Jail.
On November 20, 2004, private respondent filed a Motion for Bail. Hearings on the motion commenced on December
7, 2004, but petitioner failed to appear. Only private respondent presented evidence. Thus, on March 16, 2005, the
MCTC of Sogod issued an Order allowing private respondent to post bail set at P200,000.00. After posting a surety
bond, private respondent was released from confinement.
Pursuant to the issuance of A.M. No. 05-8-26, divesting first-level courts of authority to conduct preliminary
investigation of criminal complaints cognizable by Regional Trial Courts, records of the subject case were transmitted
to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Southern Leyte.3 The Prosecutor's Office issued a Resolution dated May 26,
2008, finding probable cause against private respondent and, accordingly, an Information for Rape was filed on June
11, 2008. A warrant of arrest was immediately issued against private respondent.
On June 27, 2008, private respondent was committed to detention4 and, on June 30, 2008, the RTC issued an
Order5 stating that accused had voluntarily surrendered to the Office of the Clerk of Court and arraignment was set
for July 31, 2008. In the meantime, on July 3, 2008, private respondent filed a Motion to Admit Cash Bond in Lieu of
Surety Bond; thus, in an Order dated July 10, 2008, the RTC cancelled the July 31, 2008 schedule for arraignment
and reset the arraignment and hearing on said motion for August 20, 2008. At said scheduled date for arraignment
and hearing on the motion, nobody appeared for the prosecution. Hence, the RTC issued the Order6 dated August
20, 2008 resetting the arraignment for October 31, 2008 and stating that:
x x x this Court hereby orders the public prosecutor x x x and/or his assistant prosecutor x x x to appear and
prosecute this case on the next scheduled hearing from arraignment up to the termination of the trial of this case
otherwise this Court will order the dismissal of this case for failure to prosecute or nolle prosequi.7
On October 28, 2008, petitioner AAA, private complainant below, filed through her private counsel, a Motion for
Cancellation of Hearing,8 manifesting that Atty. Pedro Felicen, Jr. had been granted the authority to prosecute by the
Provincial Prosecutor and praying that the scheduled arraignment on October 31, 2008 be cancelled due to the
pendency of private complainant's petition for transfer of venue before this Court. The authorized private prosecutor
did not appear on said hearing date. The hearing on October 31, 2008 proceeded as the RTC ruled, in its
Order9 issued on the same day, that unless restrained by a higher court, the mere pendency of a petition for transfer
of venue is not sufficient reason to suspend the proceedings. Moreover, counsel for accused invoked the accused's
right to a speedy trial and, thus, private respondent was arraigned in the presence of the Provincial Prosecutor who

was designated by the RTC to represent the prosecution for the purpose of arraignment. Pre-trial was set for
November 13, 2008. Nevertheless, said schedule for pre-trial was cancelled (per Order10 dated November 4, 2008)
as the Presiding Judge of the RTC had to attend a PHILJA Seminar, and pre-trial was reset to November 24, 2008.
On November 24, 2008, the day of the pre-trial itself, the private prosecutor again filed a Motion for Cancellation of
Hearing, again using as justification the pendency of the petition for transfer of venue. The RTC issued an Order on
even date, reading as follows:
During the scheduled pre-trial conference of this case, the public prosecutors of Leyte, the private prosecutor and the
private complainant failed to appear despite proper notices sent [to] them. A motion for cancellation of hearing was
filed by the authorized private prosecutor, Pedro Felicen, Jr. for reasons stated therein to which this Court finds to be
not meritorious, hence, the same is denied. x x x the public prosecutor as well as the counsel for the accused were
directed to make their oral comments on the first endorsement of the Hon. Deputy Court Administrator, regarding the
motion to transfer venue of this case to any of the RTC, at Tacloban City, x x x.
x x x Thereafter, the pre trial proceeded by discussing matters concerning the amicable settlement, plea bargaining
agreement, stipulation of facts, pre-marking of documentary exhibits, number of witnesses, trial dates and nature of
the defense. There being no other matters to discuss on pre-trial in order to expedite the early disposition of this
case, the pre-trial proper is now deemed terminated.11
The said Order also scheduled the initial hearing for trial on the merits for December 12, 2008. On December 12,
2008, no one appeared for the prosecution, prompting counsel for accused private respondent to move for dismissal
of the case on the ground of failure to prosecute. Private respondent's motion to dismiss was denied per
Order12 dated December 12, 2008, and hearing was reset to January 16, 2009.
Again, on the very day of the January 16, 2009 hearing, the private prosecutor filed an Urgent Motion for Cancellation
of Hearing, stating that it
was only on January 14, 2009 that he was furnished a copy of the notice of the January 16, 2009 hearing and he had
to attend a previously scheduled hearing for another case he was handling, set for the very same date. Thus, in the
Order dated January 16, 2009, the RTC disposed, thus:
x x x Again notably absent are the private prosecutor, the two public prosecutors designated by the Department of
Justice to prosecute this case as well as the private complainant herself.
A last minute urgent motion to reset was filed by the private prosecutor, but the same is denied being in violation of
the three (3) day rule in filing written postponements. After hearing the arguments coming from both the public
prosecutor assigned to this Court and counsel for the defense, the Court deems it proper to act on the urgency of the
matter prayed for by the said counsel. Considering that the accused has been languishing in jail since June, 2008 up
to the present and to allow him to stay in jail for a single minute, it is quite unreasonable and would violate his right to
speedy trial.
WHEREFORE, finding the motion of the counsel for the accused to be based on grounds that are meritorious, this
Court pursuant to x x x the rule on speedy trial (RA 8433) [should be "8493"] hereby orders this case dismissed for
failure of the prosecution to prosecute or nolle prosequi.13
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but the RTC denied the same per Resolution dated March 16, 2009.
Hence, the present petition for certiorari, alleging that public respondent acted with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in rashly and precipitately dismissing the rape case against private
respondent. Respondents counter that there was no grave abuse committed by the trial court and setting aside the
dismissal of the rape case would put private respondent in double jeopardy.
The Court finds the petition bereft of merit.

Firstly, petitioners failed to observe the doctrine on hierarchy of courts. In Garcia v. Miro,14 the Court, quotingVergara,
Sr. v. Suelto,15 ruled thus:
The Supreme Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned
to it by the fundamental charter and immemorial tradition. It cannot and should not be burdened with the task of
dealing with causes in the first instance. Its original jurisdiction to issue the so-called extraordinary writs should be
exercised only where absolutely necessary or where serious and important reasons exist therefor. Hence, that
jurisdiction should generally be exercised relative to actions or proceedings before the Court of Appeals, or before
constitutional or other tribunals, bodies or agencies whose acts for some reason or another are not controllable by the
Court of Appeals. Where the issuance of an extraordinary writ is also within the competence of the Court of Appeals
or a Regional Trial Court, it is in either of these courts that the specific action for the writ's procurement must be
presented. This is, and should continue, to be the policy in this regard, a policy that courts and lawyers must strictly
observe.16 (Emphasis supplied.)
On this point alone, the petition is already dismissible. However, on several occasions, this Court found compelling
reasons to relax the rule on observance on hierarchy of courts. In Pacoy v. Cajigal,17 the Court opted not to strictly
apply said doctrine, since the issue involved is double jeopardy, considered to be one of the most fundamental
constitutional rights of an accused. Hence, the Court also finds sufficient reason to relax the rule in this case as it also
involves the issue of double jeopardy, necessitating a look into the merits of the petition.
Petitioners insist that the RTC dismissed the criminal case against private respondent too hurriedly, despite the
provision in Section 10 of the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 (Republic Act No. 8493), now incorporated in Section 3, Rule
119 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
SEC. 3. Exclusions. - The following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the time within which trial must
commence:
(a) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the accused, including but not limited to the
following:
xxxx
(5) Delay resulting from orders of inhibition, or proceedings relating to change of venue of cases or transfer from
other courts;
x x x x18
A careful reading of the above rule would show that the only delays that may be excluded from the time limit within
which trial must commence are those resulting from proceedings concerning the accused. The time involved in the
proceedings in a petition for transfer of venue can only be excluded from said time limit if it was the accused who
instituted the same. Hence, in this case, the time during which the petition for transfer of venue filed by the private
complainant is pending, cannot be excluded from the time limit of thirty (30) days from receipt of the pre-trial order
imposed in Section 1, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court.
The records reveal that the 30-day time limit set by Section 1, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court had, in fact, already
been breached. The private prosecutor received the Pre-trial Order19 dated November 24, 2008 on December 3,
2008, while the Provincial Prosecutor received the same on December 2, 2008.20 This means that at the latest, trial
should have commenced by January 2, 2009, or if said date was a Sunday or holiday, then on the very next business
day. Yet, because of the prosecution's failure to appear at the December 12, 2008 hearing for the initial presentation
of the prosecution's evidence, the RTC was constrained to reset the hearing to January 16, 2009, which is already
beyond the 30-day time limit. Nevertheless, the prosecution again failed to appear at the January 16, 2009 hearing.
Indeed, as aptly observed by the RTC, petitioners showed recalcitrant behavior by obstinately refusing to comply with
the RTC's directives to commence presentation of their evidence. Petitioners did not even show proper courtesy to
the court, by filing motions for cancellation of the hearings on the very day of the hearing and not even bothering to

appear on the date they set for hearing on their motion. As set forth in the narration of facts above, the prosecution
appeared to be intentionally delaying and trifling with court processes.
Petitioners are likewise mistaken in their notion that mere pendency of their petition for transfer of venue should
interrupt proceedings before the trial court. Such situation is akin to having a pending petition for certiorari with the
higher courts. In People v. Hernandez,21 the Court held that "delay resulting from extraordinary remedies against
interlocutory orders" must be read in harmony with Section 7, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which provides that the
"[p]etition [under Rule 65] shall not interrupt the course of the principal case unless a temporary restraining order
or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued against the public respondent from further proceeding in
the case."22 The trial court was then correct and acting well within its discretion when it refused to grant petitioners'
motions for postponement mainly because of the pendency of their petition for transfer of venue.
The trial court cannot be faulted for refusing to countenance delays in the prosecution of the case. The Court's ruling
in Tan v. People23 is quite instructive, to wit:
An accused's right to "have a speedy, impartial, and public trial" is guaranteed in criminal cases by Section 14 (2) of
Article III of the Constitution. This right to a speedy trial may be defined as one free from vexatious, capricious and
oppressive delays, its "salutary objective" being to assure that an innocent person may be free from the anxiety and
expense of a court litigation or, if otherwise, of having his guilt determined within the shortest possible time
compatible with the presentation and consideration of whatsoever legitimate defense he may interpose. Intimating
historical perspective on the evolution of the right to speedy trial, we reiterate the old legal maxim, "justice delayed is
justice denied." This oft-repeated adage requires the expeditious resolution of disputes, much more so in criminal
cases where an accused is constitutionally guaranteed the right to a speedy trial.
Following the policies incorporated under the 1987 Constitution, Republic Act No. 8493, otherwise known as "The
Speedy Trial Act of 1998," was enacted, with Section 6 of said act limiting the trial period to 180 days from the first
day of trial. Aware of problems resulting in the clogging of court dockets, the Court implemented the law by issuing
Supreme Court Circular No. 38-98, which has been incorporated in the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure, Section 2
of Rule 119.
In Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan, the Court had occasion to state The right of the accused to a speedy trial and to a speedy disposition of the case against him was designed to
prevent the oppression of the citizen by holding criminal prosecution suspended over him for an indefinite time, and
to prevent delays in the administration of justice by mandating the courts to proceed with reasonable dispatch in the
trial of criminal cases. Such right to a speedy trial and a speedy disposition of a case is violated only when the
proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. The inquiry as to whether or not an accused
has been denied such right is not susceptible by precise qualification. The concept of a speedy disposition is a
relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept.
While justice is administered with dispatch, the essential ingredient is orderly, expeditious and not mere speed. It
cannot be definitely said how long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift, but deliberate. It is
consistent with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to the accused, but it does not preclude the
rights of public justice. Also, it must be borne in mind that the rights given to the accused by the Constitution and the
Rules of Court are shields, not weapons; hence, courts are to give meaning to that intent.
The Court emphasized in the same case that:
A balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights of the accused necessarily compels the court to
approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.
In determining whether the accused has been deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of the case and to a
speedy trial, four factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for the delay; (c) the defendant's
assertion of his right; and (d) prejudice to the defendant. x x x.

Closely related to the length of delay is the reason or justification of the State for such delay.1wphi1 Different
weights
should be assigned to different reasons or justifications invoked by the State. x x x.
Exhaustively explained in Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan, an accused's right to speedy trial is deemed violated only when
the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays. In determining whether petitioner was
deprived of this right, the factors to consider and balance are the following: (a) duration of the delay; (b)
reason therefor; (c) assertion of the right or failure to assert it; and (d) prejudice caused by such delay.
xxxx
We emphasize that in determining the right of an accused to speedy trial, courts are required to do more than
a mathematical computation of the number of postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case. A mere
mathematical reckoning of the time involved is clearly insufficient, and particular regard must be given to the
facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.24
Here, it must be emphasized that private respondent had already been deprived of his liberty on two occasions. First,
during the preliminary investigation before the MCTC, when he was incarcerated from November 18, 2004 to March
16, 2005, or a period of almost four months; then again, when an Information had already been issued and since
rape is a non-bailable offense, he was imprisoned beginning June 27, 2008 until the case was dismissed on January
16, 2009, or a period of over 6 months. Verily, there can be no cavil that deprivation of liberty for any duration of time
is quite oppressive. Because of private respondent's continued incarceration, any delay in trying the case would
cause him great prejudice. Thus, it was absolutely vexatious and oppressive to delay the trial in the subject criminal
case to await the outcome of petitioners' petition for transfer of venue, especially in this case where there is no
temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction issued by a higher court against herein public respondent
from further proceeding in the case.
Hence, the Court does not find any grave abuse of discretion committed by the trial court in dismissing the case
against private respondent for violation of his constitutional right to speedy trial.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 197291

April 3, 2013

DATU ANDAL AMPATUAN JR., Petitioner,


vs.
SEC. LEILA DE LIMA, as Secretary of the Department of Justice, CSP CLARO ARELLANO, as Chief State
Prosecutor, National Prosecution Service, and PANEL OF PROSECUTORS OF THE MAGUINDANAO
MASSACRE, headed by RSP PETER MEDALLE, Respondents.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
In matters involving the exercise of judgment and discretion, mandamus cannot be used to direct the manner or the
particular way the judgment and discretion are to be exercised. Consequently, the Secretary of Justice may be
compelled by writ of mandamus to act on a letter-request or a motion to include a person in the information, but may
not be compelled by writ of mandamus to act in a certain way, i.e., to grant or deny such letter-request or motion.
The Case

This direct appeal by petition for review on certiorari has been taken from the final order issued on June 27, 2011 in
Civil Case No. 10-1247771 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 26, in Manila, dismissing petitioners petition for
mandamus.2
Antecedents
History will never forget the atrocities perpetrated on November 23, 2009, when 57 innocent civilians were massacred
in Sitio Masalay, Municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province. Among the principal suspects was petitioner, then
the Mayor of the Municipality of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Province. Inquest proceedings were conducted against
petitioner on November 26, 2009 at the General Santos (Tambler) Airport Lounge, before he was flown to Manila and
detained at the main office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The NBI and the Philippine National Police
(PNP) charged other suspects, numbering more than a hundred, for what became aptly known as the Maguindanao
massacre.3
Through Department Order No. 948, then Secretary of Justice Agnes Devanadera constituted a Special Panel of
Prosecutors to conduct the preliminary investigation.
On November 27, 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) resolved to file the corresponding informations for murder
against petitioner, and to issue subpoenae to several persons.4 On December 1, 2009, 25 informations for murder
were also filed against petitioner in the Regional Trial Court, 12th Judicial Region, in Cotabato City.5
On December 3, 2009, Secretary of Justice Devanadera transmitted her letter to Chief Justice Puno requesting the
transfer of the venue of the trial of the Maguindanao massacre from Cotabato City to Metro Manila, either in Quezon
City or in Manila, to prevent a miscarriage of justice.6 On December 8, 2009, the Court granted the request for the
transfer of venue.7 However, on December 9, 2009, but prior to the transfer of the venue of the trial to Metro Manila,
the Prosecution filed a manifestation regarding the filing of 15 additional informations for murder against petitioner in
Branch 15 of the Cotabato City RTC.8 Later on, additional informations for murder were filed against petitioner in the
RTC in Quezon City, Branch 211, the new venue of the trial pursuant to the resolution of the Court. 9
The records show that petitioner pleaded not guilty to each of the 41 informations for murder when he was arraigned
on January 5, 2010,10 February 3, 2010,11 and July 28, 2010.12
In the joint resolution issued on February 5, 2010, the Panel of Prosecutors charged 196 individuals with multiple
murder in relation to the Maguindanao massacre.13 It appears that in issuing the joint resolution of February 5, 2010
the Panel of Prosecutors partly relied on the twin affidavits of one Kenny Dalandag, both dated December 7, 2009.14
On August 13, 2010, Dalandag was admitted into the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ.15 On September 7,
2010, the QC RTC issued its amended pre-trial order,16 wherein Dalandag was listed as one of the Prosecution
witnesses.17
On October 14, 2010, petitioner, through counsel, wrote to respondent Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima and
Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon to request the inclusion of Dalandag in the informations for murder
considering that Dalandag had already confessed his participation in the massacre through his two sworn
declarations.18 Petitioner reiterated the request twice more on October 22, 201019 and November 2, 2010.20
By her letter dated November 2, 2010,21 however, Secretary De Lima denied petitioners request.
Accordingly, on December 7, 2010, petitioner brought a petition for mandamus in the RTC in Manila (Civil Case No.
10-124777),22 seeking to compel respondents to charge Dalandag as another accused in the various murder cases
undergoing trial in the QC RTC.
On January 19, 2011,23 the RTC in Manila set a pre-trial conference on January 24, 2011 in Civil Case No. 10124777. At the close of the pre-trial, the RTC in Manila issued a pre-trial order.

In their manifestation and motion dated February 15, 201124 and February 18, 2011,25 respondents questioned the
propriety of the conduct of a trial in a proceeding for mandamus. Petitioner opposed.
On February 15, 2011, petitioner filed a motion for the production of documents,26 which the RTC in Manila granted
on March 21, 2011 after respondents did not file either a comment or an opposition.
Respondents then sought the reconsideration of the order of March 21, 2011.
On March 21, 2011,27 the RTC in Manila issued a subpoena to Dalandag, care of the Witness Protection Program of
the DOJ, requiring him to appear and testify on April 4, 2011 in Civil Case No. 10-124777.
On April 4, 2011, respondents moved to quash the subpoena.28 Petitioner opposed the motion to quash the subpoena
on April 15, 2011.29 The parties filed other papers, specifically, respondents their reply dated April 26,
2011;30 petitioner an opposition on May 12, 2011;31 and respondents another reply dated May 20, 2011.32
On June 27, 2011,33 the RTC of Manila issued the assailed order in Civil Case No. 10-124777 dismissing the petition
for mandamus.34
Hence, this appeal by petition for review on certiorari.
Issues
Petitioner raises the following issues, to wit:
1. WHETHER THE PUBLIC RESPONDENTS MAY BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO INVESTIGATE AND
PROSECUTE KENNY DALANDAG AS AN ACCUSED IN THE INFORMATIONS FOR MULTIPLE MURDER IN THE
MAGUINADANAO MASSACRE CASES IN LIGHT OF HIS ADMITTED PARTICIPATION THEREAT IN AFFIDAVITS
AND OFFICIAL RECORDS FILED WITH THE PROSECUTOR AND THE QC RTC; and,
2. WHETHER THE SUBSEQUENT INCLUSION OF KENNY DALANDAG IN THE WITNESS PROTECTION
PROGRAM JUSTIFIES EXCLUSION AS AN ACCUSED AND HIS NON-INDICTMENT FOR HIS COMPLICITY IN
THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE NOTWITHSTANDING ADMISSIONS MADE THAT HE TOOK PART IN ITS
PLANNING AND EXECUTION.35
The crucial issue is whether respondents may be compelled by writ of mandamus to charge Dalandag as an accused
for multiple murder in relation to the Maguindanao massacre despite his admission to the Witness Protection
Program of the DOJ.
Ruling
The appeal lacks merit.
The prosecution of crimes pertains to the Executive Department of the Government whose principal power and
responsibility are to see to it that our laws are faithfully executed. A necessary component of the power to execute our
laws is the right to prosecute their violators. The right to prosecute vests the public prosecutors with a wide range of
discretion the discretion of what and whom to charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors
that are best appreciated by the public prosecutors.36
The public prosecutors are solely responsible for the determination of the amount of evidence sufficient to establish
probable cause to justify the filing of appropriate criminal charges against a respondent. Theirs is also the quasijudicial discretion to determine whether or not criminal cases should be filed in court.37
Consistent with the principle of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution, the Court deems it a sound judicial
policy not to interfere in the conduct of preliminary investigations, and to allow the Executive Department, through the

Department of Justice, exclusively to determine what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for
the prosecution of supposed offenders. By way of exception, however, judicial review may be allowed where it is
clearly established that the public prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion, that is, when he has exercised his
discretion "in an arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, patent
and gross enough as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law."38
The records herein are bereft of any showing that the Panel of Prosecutors committed grave abuse of discretion in
identifying the 196 individuals to be indicted for the Maguindanao massacre. It is notable in this regard that petitioner
does not assail the joint resolution recommending such number of individuals to be charged with multiple murder, but
only seeks to have Dalandag be also investigated and charged as one of the accused based because of his own
admissions in his sworn declarations. However, his exclusion as an accused from the informations did not at all
amount to grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Panel of Prosecutors whose procedure in excluding Dalandag
as an accused was far from arbitrary, capricious, whimsical or despotic. Section 2, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court,
which requires that "the complaint or information shall be xxx against all persons who appear to be responsible for
the offense involved," albeit a mandatory provision, may be subject of some exceptions, one of which is when a
participant in the commission of a crime becomes a state witness.
The two modes by which a participant in the commission of a crime may become a state witness are, namely: (a) by
discharge from the criminal case pursuant to Section 17 of Rule 119 of the Rules of Court; and (b) by the approval of
his application for admission into the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ in accordance with Republic Act No.
6981 (The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act).39 These modes are intended to encourage a person who
has witnessed a crime or who has knowledge of its commission to come forward and testify in court or quasi-judicial
body, or before an investigating authority, by protecting him from reprisals, and shielding him from economic
dislocation.
These modes, while seemingly alike, are distinct and separate from each other.
Under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, the discharge by the trial court of one or more of several accused
with their consent so that they can be witnesses for the State is made upon motion by the Prosecution before resting
its case. The trial court shall require the Prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statements of the proposed
witnesses at a hearing in support of the discharge. The trial court must ascertain if the following conditions fixed by
Section 17 of Rule 119 are complied with, namely: (a) there is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused
whose discharge is requested; (b) there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense
committed, except the testimony of said accused; (c) the testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated
in its material points; (d) said accused does not appear to be most guilty; and (e) said accused has not at any time
been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
On the other hand, Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6981 provides:
Section 10. State Witness. Any person who has participated in the commission of a crime and desires to be a
witness for the State, can apply and, if qualified as determined in this Act and by the Department, shall be admitted
into the Program whenever the following circumstances are present:
a. the offense in which his testimony will be used is a grave felony as defined under the Revised Penal Code or its
equivalent under special laws;
b. there is absolute necessity for his testimony;
c. there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed;
d. his testimony can be substantially corroborated on its material points;
e. he does not appear to be most guilty; and
f. he has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

An accused discharged from an information or criminal complaint by the court in order that he may be a State
Witness pursuant to Section 9 and 10 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court may upon his petition be admitted to
the Program if he complies with the other requirements of this Act. Nothing in this Act shall prevent the discharge of
an accused, so that he can be used as a State Witness under Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.
Save for the circumstance covered by paragraph (a) of Section 10, supra, the requisites under both rules are
essentially the same. Also worth noting is that an accused discharged from an information by the trial court pursuant
to Section 17 of Rule 119 may also be admitted to the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ provided he complies
with the requirements of Republic Act No. 6981.
A participant in the commission of the crime, to be discharged to become a state witness pursuant to Rule 119, must
be one charged as an accused in the criminal case. The discharge operates as an acquittal of the discharged
accused and shall be a bar to his future prosecution for the same offense, unless he fails or refuses to testify against
his co-accused in accordance with his sworn statement constituting the basis for his discharge.40The discharge is
expressly left to the sound discretion of the trial court, which has the exclusive responsibility to see to it that the
conditions prescribed by the rules for that purpose exist.41
While it is true that, as a general rule, the discharge or exclusion of a co-accused from the information in order that he
may be utilized as a Prosecution witness rests upon the sound discretion of the trial court,42 such discretion is not
absolute and may not be exercised arbitrarily, but with due regard to the proper administration of justice. 43 Anent the
requisite that there must be an absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is sought, the
trial court has to rely on the suggestions of and the information provided by the public prosecutor. The reason is
obvious the public prosecutor should know better than the trial court, and the Defense for that matter, which of the
several accused would best qualify to be discharged in order to become a state witness. The public prosecutor is also
supposed to know the evidence in his possession and whomever he needs to establish his case,44 as well as the
availability or non-availability of other direct or corroborative evidence, which of the accused is the most guilty one,
and the like.45
On the other hand, there is no requirement under Republic Act No. 6981 for the Prosecution to first charge a person
in court as one of the accused in order for him to qualify for admission into the Witness Protection Program. The
admission as a state witness under Republic Act No. 6981 also operates as an acquittal, and said witness cannot
subsequently be included in the criminal information except when he fails or refuses to testify. The immunity for the
state witness is granted by the DOJ, not by the trial court. Should such witness be meanwhile charged in court as an
accused, the public prosecutor, upon presentation to him of the certification of admission into the Witness Protection
Program, shall petition the trial court for the discharge of the witness.46 The Court shall then order the discharge and
exclusion of said accused from the information.47
The admission of Dalandag into the Witness Protection Program of the Government as a state witness since August
13, 2010 was warranted by the absolute necessity of his testimony to the successful prosecution of the criminal
charges. Apparently, all the conditions prescribed by Republic Act No. 6981 were met in his case. That he admitted
his participation in the commission of the Maguindanao massacre was no hindrance to his admission into the Witness
Protection Program as a state witness, for all that was necessary was for him to appear not the most guilty.
Accordingly, he could not anymore be charged for his participation in the Maguindanao massacre, as to which his
admission operated as an acquittal, unless he later on refuses or fails to testify in accordance with the sworn
statement that became the basis for his discharge against those now charged for the crimes.
Mandamus shall issue when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of
an act that the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. It is proper when the act
against which it is directed is one addressed to the discretion of the tribunal or officer. In matters involving the
exercise of judgment and discretion, mandamus may only be resorted to in order to compel respondent tribunal,
corporation, board, officer or person to take action, but it cannot be used to direct the manner or the particular way
discretion is to be exercised,48or to compel the retraction or reversal of an action already taken in the exercise of
judgment or discretion.49

As such, respondent Secretary of Justice may be compelled to act on the letter-request of petitioner, but may not be
compelled to act in a certain way, i.e., to grant or deny such letter-request. Considering that respondent Secretary of
Justice already denied the letter-request, mandamus was no longer available as petitioner's recourse.
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition for review on certiorari; AFFIRMS the final order issued on June 27,
2011 in Civil Case No. 10-124777 by the Regional Trial Court in Manila; and ORDERS petitioner to pay the costs of
suit.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 173319

December 4, 2009

FEDERICO MIGUEL OLBES, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. DANILO A. BUEMIO, in his capacity as pairing presiding judge of Branch 22 of the Metropolitan Trial
Court of Manila, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, SAMIR MUHSEN and ROWENA MUHSEN,Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
On complaint of Samir and Rowena Muhsen, Federico Miguel Olbes (petitioner) was indicted for Grave Coercion
before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila by Information1 dated June 28, 2002 which was raffled to
Branch 22 thereof. On October 28, 2002, petitioner posted bail and was released.
Denying petitioners motion to defer or suspend his arraignment in light of his pending petition for review before the
Department of Justice from the City Fiscals Resolution finding probable cause to hale him into court, Judge Hipolito
dela Vega proceeded with petitioners arraignment on February 12, 2003 in which he pleaded not guilty to the
charge.2 Pre-trial was thereupon set to May 28, 2003 which was, however, declared a non-working day due to the
occurrence of typhoon "Chedeng." The pre-trial was thus reset to October 23, 2003.3
At the scheduled pre-trial on October 23, 2003, petitioner failed to appear, prompting the trial court to issue a warrant
for his arrest, which warrant was, however, later recalled on discovery that neither petitioner nor his counsel was
notified of said schedule. Pre-trial was again reset to January 21, 2004.4
Before the scheduled pre-trial on January 21, 2004 or on November 3, 2003, petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss5the
Information on the ground of violation of his right to a speedy trial under Republic Act No. 84936 or the Speedy Trial
Act of 1998 and Supreme Court Circular (SCC) No. 38-98.7 He argued that "considering that [he] was not - without
any fault on his part - brought to trial within 80 days from the date he was arraigned, this case should be dismissed
pursuant to Rule 119, Section 98 in relation to Rule 119, Section 6 of the Rules."9
The trial court, through pairing Judge Danilo A. Buemio (respondent judge), denied petitioners Motion to Dismiss by
Order10 of December 5, 2003, holding that petitioner played a big part in the delay of the case, and that technical
rules of procedure were meant to secure, not override, substantial justice.
Petitioners Motion for Reconsideration of the December 5, 2003 Order was denied by Order11 of March 3, 2004 after
respondent judge noted that during petitioners arraignment on February 12, 2003, he interposed no objection to the
setting of the pre-trial to May 28, 2003. Besides, respondent judge held, strict compliance with the Speedy Trial Act
was improbable, given the volume of cases being filed with the MeTC. Additionally respondent judge held that the
term "speedy trial" as applied in criminal cases is a relative term such that the trial and disposition of cases depended
on several factors including the availability of counsel, witnesses and prosecutor, and weather conditions.
Petitioner challenged respondent judges orders via certiorari and prohibition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Manila, alleging that not only was he (petitioner) not brought to trial within 80 days from the date of his arraignment as

required under Section 6, Rule 119, but the prosecution had failed to establish the existence of any of the "time
exclusions" provided under Section 312 of the same Rule to excuse its failure to bring him to trial within the 80-day
period.
By Decision13 of January 31, 2006, the RTC denied the petition, holding that Section 9 of Rule 119 of the Rules of
Court does not call for the automatic dismissal of a case just because trial has not commenced within 80 days from
arraignment; that the proceedings before the MeTC were not attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive
delays; and that the concept of a speedy trial is not a mere question of numbers that could be computed in terms of
years, months or days but is understood according to the peculiar circumstances of each case, citing SPO1
Sumbang, Jr. v. Gen. Court Martial PRO-Region 6.14
The RTC further held that in "determining whether petitioners right to speedy trial was violated,"15 the circumstances
that respondent judge was the pairing judge of Br. 22 of the MeTC who "may be assumed also [to] preside over his
own regular court and devotes limited time to his pairing court" and that first level courts in Manila have an excessive
load of cases should also be taken into consideration.
His motion for reconsideration having been denied by the RTC,16 petitioner lodged the present petition for review
which, in the main, faults the RTC
I
. . . IN AFFIRMING THE MTC-MANILA JUDGES RULING THAT COMPLIANCE WITH RULE 119, SECTION 9 OF
THE RULES IS NOT MANDATORY. THE RIGHT OF AN ACCUSED TO A SPEEDY TRIAL IS A SUBSTANTIVE
RIGHT THAT CANNOT BE DISREGARDED.
II
. . . IN AFFIRMING THE MTC-MANILA JUDGES RULING THAT THE ENUMERATION OF ALLOWABLE TIME
EXCLUSIONS UNDER RULE 119, SECTION 3 IS NOT EXCLUSIVE, AND THAT THE FAILURE TO BRING
PETITIONER TO TRIAL WITHIN THE PERIOD PROVIDED UNDER RULE 119, SECTION 6 WAS JUSTIFIED.
x x x x,17
errors which raise a question of law.
Petitioner argues that his right to speedy trial is a substantive right and that, contrary to the RTC ruling, Section 9 of
Rule 119 is mandatory in character, having been taken from SCC No. 38-98, strict compliance with which is urged to
remove any attempt on the part of judges to exercise discretion with respect to the time frame for conducting the trial
of an accused; that the last paragraph of said Section 9 clearly indicates that it is the right of an accused to move for
dismissal of the Information should the prosecution fail to prove the existence of the time exclusions under Section 3
of Rule 119; and that the enumeration of the allowable time exclusions under Section 3 is exclusive, hence, the RTC
erred in considering the excessive caseload of respondent judge, as a mere pairing judge, to be an allowable time
exclusion under the Rules.
In its Comment,18 the People, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), counters that "speed alone is not the
chief objective of a trial" such that mere assertion of a violation of the right to speedy trial does not necessarily result
in the automatic dismissal of an Information; that the time exclusions referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) of Section 3,
Rule 119 are not exclusive and admit of other exceptions; that petitioner himself contributed to the delay in the
proceedings when he filed a frivolous motion to suspend proceedings and failed to appear during the scheduled pretrial; and that the RTC statement about respondent judge being a mere pairing judge was not an apology for the
courts congested dockets but a mere statement of fact as to the impossibility of setting the case for pre-trial at an
earlier date.

Furthermore, the OSG asserts that respondent judges denial of petitioners motion to dismiss was in order as he
correctly applied the principles of relativity and flexibility in determining whether petitioners right to speedy trial had
been violated.19
Respondents-private complainants, on the other hand, maintain in their Comment20 that several Supreme Court
decisions21 dealing with the issue of the constitutional guaranty of a speedy trial, the Speedy Trial Act of 1998, and
SCC No. 38-98 have held that the right is deemed violated only when the proceedings are attended by vexatious,
capricious and oppressive delays, which did not obtain in the present case, petitioner himself having been
instrumental in the delay in the prosecution of the case.
The petition does not impress.
Petitioner draws attention to the time gap of 105 days from his arraignment on February 12, 2003 up to the first pretrial setting on May 28, 2003, and another gap of 148 days from the latter date up to the second pre-trial setting on
October 23, 2003 or for a total of 253 days - a clear contravention, according to petitioner, of the 80-day time limit
from arraignment to trial.
It bears noting, however, that on his arraignment on February 12, 2003, petitioner interposed no objection to the
setting of the pre-trial to May 28, 2003 which was, as earlier stated, later declared a non-working day. Inarguably, the
cancellation of the scheduled pre-trial on that date was beyond the control of the trial court.1avvphi1
Petitioner argues, however, that the lapse of 253 days (from arraignment to October 23, 2003) was not justified by
any of the excusable delays as embodied in the time exclusions22 specified under Section 3 of Rule 119. The
argument is unavailing.
In Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. Judge How,23 the Court stressed that the exceptions consisting of the time
exclusions provided in the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 reflect the fundamentally recognized principle that "speedy trial"
is a relative term and necessarily involves a degree of flexibility. This was reiterated in People v. Hernandez,24 viz:
The right of the accused to a speedy trial is guaranteed under Sections 14(2) and 16, Article III of the 1987
Constitution. In 1998, Congress enacted R.A. No. 8493, otherwise known as the "Speedy Trial Act of 1998." The law
provided for time limits in order "to ensure a speedy trial of all criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan, [RTC],
Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court, and Municipal Circuit Trial Court." On August 11, 1998, the Supreme
Court issued Circular No. 38-98, the Rules Implementing R.A. No. 8493. The provisions of said circular were adopted
in the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. As to the time limit within which trial must commence after
arraignment, the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure states:
Sec. 6, Rule 119. Extended time limit.-- Notwithstanding the provisions of section 1(g), Rule 116 and the preceding
section 1, for the first twelve-calendar-month period following its effectivity on September 15, 1998, the time limit with
respect to the period from arraignment to trial imposed by said provision shall be one hundred eighty (180) days. For
the second twelve-month period, the time limit shall be one hundred twenty (120) days, and for the third twelve-month
period, the time limit shall be eighty (80) days.
R.A. No. 8493 and its implementing rules and the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure enumerate certain
reasonable delays as exclusions in the computation of the prescribed time limits. They also provide that "no provision
of law on speedy trial and no rule implementing the same shall be interpreted as a bar to any charge of denial of
speedy trial as provided by Article III, Section 14(2), of the 1987 Constitution." Thus, in spite of the prescribed time
limits, jurisprudence continues to adopt the view that the concept of "speedy trial" is a relative term and must
necessarily be a flexible concept. In Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan, we held:
The right of the accused to a speedy trial and to a speedy disposition of the case against him was designed to
prevent the oppression of the citizen by holding criminal prosecution suspended over him for an indefinite time, and
to prevent delays in the administration of justice by mandating the courts to proceed with reasonable dispatch in the
trial of criminal cases. Such right to a speedy trial and a speedy disposition of a case is violated only when the
proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. x x x

While justice is administered with dispatch, the essential ingredient is orderly, expeditious and not mere speed. It
cannot be definitely said how long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift, but deliberate. It is
consistent with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to the accused, but it does not preclude the
rights of public justice. Also, it must be borne in mind that the rights given to the accused by the Constitution and the
Rules of Court are shields, not weapons; hence, courts are to give meaning to that intent.
A balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights of the accused necessarily compels the court to
approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.
In determining whether the accused has been deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of the case and to a
speedy trial, four factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for the delay; (c) the defendants
assertion of his right; and (d) prejudice to the defendant. (citations omitted) (underscoring supplied)
The time limits set by the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 do not thus preclude justifiable postponements and delays when
so warranted by the situation.25 To the Court, the reasons for the postponements and delays attendant to the present
case reflected above are not unreasonable. While the records indicate that neither petitioner nor his counsel was
notified of the resetting of the pre-trial to October 23, 2003, the same appears to have been occasioned by oversight
or simple negligence which, standing alone, does not prove fatal to the prosecutions case. The faux pas was
acknowledged and corrected when the MeTC recalled the arrest warrant it had issued against petitioner under the
mistaken belief that petitioner had been duly notified of the October 23, 2003 pre-trial setting.26
Reiterating the Courts pronouncement in Solar Team Entertainment, Inc.27 that "speedy trial" is a relative and flexible
term, Lumanlaw v. Peralta, Jr.28 summons the courts to maintain a delicate balance between the demands of due
process and the strictures of speedy trial on the one hand, and the right of the State to prosecute crimes and rid
society of criminals on the other.
Applying the balancing test for determining whether an accused has been denied his constitutional right to a speedy
trial, or a speedy disposition of his case, taking into account several factors such as the length and reason of the
delay, the accuseds assertion or non-assertion of his right, and the prejudice to the accused resulting from the
delay,29 the Court does not find petitioner to have been unduly and excessively prejudiced by the "delay" in the
proceedings, especially given that he had posted bail.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
Costs against Petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 157219

May 28, 2004

NATIVIDAD E. BAUTISTA, CLEMENTE E. BAUTISTA and SOCORRO L. ANGELES, petitioners,


vs.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, MANILA PAPERMILLS, INTERNATIONAL, INC., ADELFA
PROPERTIES, INC. and SPOUSES RODOLFO JAVELLANA and NELLY JAVELLANA, respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of the decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72307 dated February 17, 2003.1
The facts are not in dispute.

On August 12, 1999, petitioners Natividad E. Bautista, Clemente E. Bautista and Socorro L. Angeles filed a complaint
against respondent Manila Papermills, International, Inc., before the RTC of Imus, Cavite, Branch 22, docketed as
Civil Case No. 1948-99, for quieting of title.2 This complaint was later amended to implead respondents Adelfa
Properties, Inc. and the spouses Rodolfo and Nelly Javellana.3
Petitioners alleged in their Amended Complaint that they have been in actual and uninterrupted possession of Lot
5753 of the Imus Estate; that they discovered that the land was covered by a reconstituted title in the name of
respondents; and that the said title and the derivatives thereof are spurious. Hence, they prayed that they be declared
the absolute owners of the land in dispute.
After several delays spanning more than two years, the case was finally set for trial. However, on May 2, 2002,
petitioners filed an Urgent Motion for Postponement to cancel the hearing on the ground that Atty. Michael Macaraeg,
the lawyer assigned to the case was in the United States attending to an important matter.
The trial court denied petitioners motion for postponement and considered them as having waived the presentation of
their evidence.
Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied. Petitioners filed a special civil action for
certiorariwith the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 72307. On February 17, 2003, the Court of Appeals
denied due course to the petition for certiorari and dismissed the same.
Hence, this petition on the following assignment of errors:
1. The respondent Court of Appeals erred in failing to consider the partiality and prejudice of the trial court
against the petitioners since the inception of the case thereby depriving the petitioners of their
constitutionally guaranteed right to due process (Padua vs. Ericta, 161 SCRA 458);
2. As a consequence, the respondent appellate court denied the petitioners of their chance to present
evidence even after satisfactorily explaining the failure of petitioners counsel to attend the scheduled
hearing the due process guarantee was violated (Continental Leaf Tobacco [Phil.]), Inc. vs. Intermediate
Appellate Court, 140 SCRA 269).4
Petitioners claim that the arbitrary acts of the trial court have resulted in the denial of their right to due process, and
that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the
challenged Orders.
Petitioners further aver that the trial judge displayed "noticeable partiality and prejudice" in dealing with their case, by
granting several continuances to respondents while denying petitioners Urgent Motion for Postponement.5They cite
four instances wherein respondents were granted extensions to file responsive pleadings and two instances wherein
respondents requests for postponement were similarly granted.6 An extension to file a responsive pleading is clearly
different from a request for a postponement of trial. The former is less likely to waste the time of the court, the
litigants, their counsels and witnesses who may have already prepared for the trial and traveled to the courthouse to
attend the hearing. More specifically, out of the two postponements prayed for by respondents, one was for the
cancellation of a court date unilaterally requested by petitioners which has not been approved by the trial court.7
On the other hand, the trial court, in its Order dated July 2, 2002, clearly stated that petitioners motions for
postponement on three previous occasions were granted.8 This was never refuted by petitioners. Petitioners last
motion for postponement was, however, denied because it was filed on the very date of the hearing sought to be
rescheduled.9
In Gohu v. Spouses Gohu,10 we ruled that, far from being tainted with bias and prejudice, an order declaring a party to
have waived the right to present evidence for performing dilatory actions upholds the courts duty to ensure that trial
proceeds despite the deliberate delay and refusal to proceed on the part of one party.11

Petitioners contention that they were denied due process is not well- taken. Where a party was afforded an
opportunity to participate in the proceedings but failed to do so, he cannot complain of deprivation of due process.
Due process is satisfied as long as the party is accorded an opportunity to be heard. If it is not availed of, it is deemed
waived or forfeited without violating the constitutional guarantee.12
Moreover, the grant of a motion for continuance or postponement is not a matter of right. It is addressed to the sound
discretion of the court. Action thereon will not be disturbed by appellate courts, in the absence of clear and manifest
abuse of discretion resulting in a denial of substantial justice.13 In other words, we cannot make a finding of grave
abuse of discretion simply because a court decides to proceed with the trial of a case rather than postpone the
hearing to another day, because of the absence of a party. That the absence of a party during trial constitutes a
waiver of his right to present evidence and cross-examine the opponents witnesses is firmly supported by
jurisprudence. To constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the refusal of the
court to postpone the hearing must be characterized by arbitrariness or capriciousness.14
After a careful review of the evidence on record, we find that the Court of Appeals did not err in finding that no grave
abuse of discretion was committed by the trial court in denying petitioners motion for postponement and declaring
them as having waived their right to present evidence.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 72307 which dismissed the special civil action for certiorari, is AFFIRMED.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-23092 October 28, 1977
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ANITO BEBERINO alias NIT (appeal withdrawn), GERARDO CASA;A alias BANDONG (appeal withdrawn),
LEODEGARIO ESTRADA (appeal withdrawn), and IGNACIO CALVArio, defendants, IGNACIO
CALVARIO,defendant-appellant.
Rodrigo Matutina for appellant.
Office of the Solicitor General for appellee.

CONCEPCION JR., J.:t.hqw


Appeal of the accused Ignacio Calvario from the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Surigao del Norte finding
him guilty as an accomplice in the crime of simple robbery and sentence him to suffer an indeterminate penalty
ranging from four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day
of prision mayor, as maximum, with the accessory penalties provided by law; and to indemnify, jointly and severally,
together with his co-accused Anito Beberino, Gerardo Casa;a and Leodegario Estrada, the heirs of Gregoria Nu;ez
in the amount of P 605.00; and to pay proportionate costs.
It is undisputed that in the evening of February 3, 1960, the house of Gregoria Nu;ez situated in sitio Balibayon,
barrio Lakandula, Placer, Suripo del Norte, was broken into and robbed by several persons of cash and other articles
of value amounting to P 605.00, on the occasion of which Gregoria Nu;ez was strangled to death.
Gregoria Nu;ez a septuagenarian with ample means, lived alone in her house built on her coconut plantation close
to the seashore. Her grandchildren took turns in keeping her company at night. On the night o February 3, 1960,

Victor Ugay and Julian Dublois both 16 years of age, spread a mat in the sala while their grandmother slept on a
wooden bed inside a small room. Before retiring, the boys placed a wooden bar across the door, on the inside and
locked the windows with pieces of wire and tuned in the radio They went to sleep at about 10:00 o'clock. 1
Towards midnight, the boys were awakened by three men 2 two of whom were armed with revolvers, who ordered
them to lie down on their stomach, after which they were bound hand and foot and their mouths stuffed with
cloth. 3 After the boys were tied, the three men entered the room occupied by Gregoria Nu;ez and soon thereafter,
the boys heard Choking sounds ( "tika-tika" ) and kicking inside the room. They also heard the clinking of bottles and
the snorting of pigs, under the house, as if there were people there. After a while, the men came out the room and
left, passing through the window facing the sea. Not long thereafter, they heard the sounds of a departing motor
launch, so that they tried to unloosen the ropes that bound them.
At about 5:00 o'clock in the moming Librada Dobdoban de Ugay was awakened by her son, Victor Ugay shouting for
help. She ran to the house of Gregoria Nu;ez about 20 brazas away. The door was still barred from the inside, so
that she passed through an open window. Inside, she saw her son, Victor, and her nephew, Julian Dublois bound
hand and foot. She called her mother-in-law and, receiving no answer, she entered her room. There, she saw her
mother-in- law, Gregoria Nu;ez lying down apparently lifeless.So she went back to the sala and untied Victor Ugay
and Julian Dublois. After a cursory check of the house, she found that the money from the sale of copra amounting to
P 147.50, as well as the radio-phono, records, Coleman lamp and flashlight, all belonging to Gregoria Nu;ez were
missing. 5 The matter was reported to the police, and an autopsy of the cadaver of Gregoria Nu;ez showed that she
died of strangulation by hand. 6
Dissatisfied with the apparent inability of the local police force to solve the crime expeditiously, the relatives of the
victim sought the assistance of the Philippine Constabulary. 7 On March 1, 1960, Cpl. Michael Desoloc was
dispatched to Placer to conduct an investigation. In barrio Lakandula, he received information that one Ignacio
Calvario had knowledge of the crime and was willing to testify if the authorities would utilize him as a witness in the
case 8 Ignacio Calvario was, accordingly, taken into custody, and after
questioning, he executed an affidavit wherein he described the means by which the crime was committed and the
role he played in the commission thereof. He also named (Bandong) Gerardo Casa;a, (Nit) Anito Beberino, (Mandot)
Rumaldo Guibao, Floro Abas, Gario Estrada, Rose Bebang, Penoy, Busio and (Pelesio Simplicio) Guibao as his
confederates. 9
Following further investigations, a complaint for robbery in band with murder was filed by Cpl. Desoloc before the
Justice of the Peace Court of Placer, Surigao against the afore-named persons. Ignacio Calvario was listed in the
complaint as one of the witnesses for the prosecution. 10 Finding a prima facie case against the accused, the Justice
of the Peace issued a warrant of their arrest, 11 and, upon termination of the preliminary investigation, remanded the
case to the Court of First Instance of Surigao for trial on the merits. 12 A re-investigation of the case was conducted by
the Fiscal after which he filed an information before the Court of First Instance of Surigao charging the accused,
including Ignacio Calvario who had by then demonstrated hostility to the prosecution and indicated that he would no
longer testify for the government, with the crime of robbery with homicide. 13
In due time following the conclusion of the trial, judgment was rendered finding the accused Anito Beberino, Gerardo
Casa;a and Leodegario Estrada guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide, and sentenced to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify, jointly and severally, the heirs of Gregoria Nu;ez in the amount of P
3,000.00. The accused Ignacio Calvario was found guilty as an accomplice in the crime of simple robbery since he
did not actually participate in the killing of Gregoria Nu;ez and no conspiracy was proved among the accused, and
sentenced to suffer the penalty hereinbefore stated. 14 For insufficiency of evidence, the accused Simplicio Guibao,
Rumaldo Guibao, Floro Abas, and Rudy Casa;a were acquitted; while the case was dismissed as against Rose
Bebang and Penoy, nicknamed Busio. 15
From this judgment, Gerardo Casa;a, Anito Beberino, Leodegario Estrada, and Ignacio Calvario appealed. However,
the appeals of Gerardo Casa;a Leodegario Estrada, and Anito Beberino were subsequently withdrawn, 16 so that the
appeal of Ignacio Calvario alone is left for consideration.

In seeking a reversal of the judgment appealed from, the appellant Ignacio Calvario claims that the evidence of the
prosecution is insufficient to sustain a conviction because the extra-judicial confession upon which said judgment is
based was obtained from him by means of threats, and, therefore, inadmissible in evidence.
The appellant testified that he was threatened by Cpl. Michael Desoloc who said that if he would not affix his
thumbmark on the document, he (Calvario) would be brought to the barracks and sent to Bilibid to be burned. 17
Cpl. Desoloc however, denied having threatened or coerced the appellant into executing the said extra-judicial
confession and claimed that Ignacio Calvario furnished the statements contained therein freely and voluntarily. His
claim is corroborated by the Justice of the Peace of Placer, Surigao, before whom Ignacio Calvario swore to the
veracity of its contents, who testified that he read the extra- judicial confession to the accused and asked the latter if
he understood what had been read to him; and that when the accused answered in the affirmative, he requested the
accused to affix his thumbmark on the document, which he did.
The appellant's claim that he had been threatened into executing the extra-judicial confession in question appears to
be more of an afterthought than a valid claim. The circumstances surrounding its execution positively show that the
document was executed freely and voluntarily and the reason that prompted the accused to do so was that he had
been promised immunity from prosecution as he would be utilized as a government witness. Thus, Cpl. Michael
Desoloc testified that he went to sitio Balibayon on March 1, 1960 to investigate the robbery and killing of Gregoria
Nu;ez After questioning Librada Ugay, Victor Ugay, and Julian Dublois, he proceeded to barrio Lakandula where he
was informed by one Eliot Dublois, who obtained his information from Eugenio Cinco, that Ignacio Calvario was one
of the robbers. He went to Cinco who told him that Ignacio Calvario was indeed willing to testify if utilized as a
government witness. On that very same day, Ignacio Calvario was arrested. Apparently, an agreement had been
reached for Ignacio Calvario was brought to sitio Balibayon where they re-enacted the commission of the crime. The
next day, March 2, 1960, Calvario was brought to the poblacion of Placer where he pointed to Cpl. Desoloc the
perpetrators of the crime. On March 6, 1960, Ignacio Calvario executed the extra-judicial confession after which he
was released from custody.18 On March 8, 1960, Cpl. Michael Desoloc filed a complaint before the Justice of the
Peace Court of Placer, Surigao, charging Gerardo Casa;a and others with the crime of robbery in band with murder.
Ignacio Calvario, true to the promise, was merely listed as one of the witnesses for the prosecution. 19 After the
preliminary investigation, the case was remanded to the Court of First Instance of Surigao for trial. However, a reinvestigation was conducted, during which time Ignacio Calvario turned hostile, so that he was included in the
information as one of the accused. 20
As will be seen, the appellant was to be used as a government witness which was not done because he later denied
the facts that he had revealed in his confession. This Court has earlier held that where one of several co-defendants
tums state's evidence on a promise of immunity by the prosecuting attorney, but later retracts and fails to keep his
part of the agreement, his confession made under such a promise may then be used against him.21 In view thereof,
the extra-judicial confession of the appellant is admissible as evidence against hin
Finally, counsel for the appellant claims that the trial court erred in convicting Calvario as an accomplice in the crime
of robbery although he had no knowledge of the criminal intent of his coaccused.
The contention is without merit. In his extra-judicial confession, the appellant stated that he was in Placer, Surigao on
February 3, 1960 and that at abut 7:00 o'clock in the evening of the said day, he was told by Gerardo Casa;a to get
aboard the latter's boat lancha as they were sailing for barrio Cawilan Already on board were Anito Beberino,
Rumaldo Guibao, and Rudy Casa;a, the son of Gerardo Casa;a. Thirty minutes after lifting anchor, they reached
the island of Maytubig where they met the group composed of Floro Abas, Gario Estrada, Rose Bebang, Penoy,
Busio, and Simplicio Guibao. He then heard the two groups discussing whose boat they would use in going to sitio
Balibayon to rob Gregoria Nu;ez After some time, they agreed to ride on the boat of Simplicio Guibao, so that Rudy
Casa;a took the boat of his father to sitio Sanisani A while later, they landed on the seashore near the house of
Gregoria Nu;ez They disembarked and Simplicio Guibao sailed for Nonoc promising to come back for them later.
Upon reaching the house of Gregoria Nunez, he and Gerardo Casa;a, Anito Beberino, and Gario Estrada went
upstairs, while their other companions remained below. Gerardo Casa;a then removed the latch securing the
window with a screw driver, after which Gerardo Casa;a and Anito Beberino, both of whom were armed with
revolvers, and Gario Estrada entered the house through the open window. The appellant stayed behind, on the porch.
Once inside. Gerardo Casa;a kicked the two persons then sleeping in the sala of the house who were subsequently

gagged and hogtied by Anito Beberino and Gario Estrada. Then, Gerardo Casa;a entered the room of Gregoria
Nunez and strangled her to death. After killing Gregoria Nu;ez, Gerardo Casa;a removed the victims ring from her
finger while Anito Beberino and Gario Estrada ransacked the room. Thereafter, they opened five bottles of wine which
the mixed with beer, and gave a glass of the concoction to Calvario. On coming out of the room, Gerardo Casa;a
opened the "comoda" and removed the radio therefrom and passed it on the Calvario who put it atop a bench on the
veranda, Gario Estrada likewise gave Calvario a petromax lamp which he also placed on the bench. Then. the three
left the house passing through the open window and rejoined their companions below. Afterwards, all of them
boarded the boat of Simplicio Guibao who had returned for them and sailed towards Sanisani. He and Floro Abas,
Rose Bebang, Penoy, and Busio disembarked at Sanisani while Gerardo Casa;a, Rumaldo Guibao, and Gario
Estrada boarded the boat of Rudy Casa;a and returned to Placer.
The appellant's statement is corroborated by Severo Enriquez who declared that he saw the appellant Ignacio
Calvario, Leodegario Estrada, Gerardo Casa;a. Anito Beberino, Flor Abas and several others disembark from a
launch at about 10:00 in the evening of February 3, 1960 and of Gregoria Nu;ez with the appelant Ignacio Calvario
in the lead.
The evidence thus presented proves conspiracy and that appellant not only knew of the plan to rob Gregoria Nu;ez,
but also participated in its commission by previous and simultaneous acts which lent to the accomplishment of the
criminal intent. Although the appellant may not have foreseen the killing of the victim and did not take part in its
execution, he is nevertheless guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide. The rule is that when homicide takes place
as a consequence of or on the Occasion of a robbery, all those who took part in the robbery shall be guilty as
principals of the crime of robbery with homicide, unless there is proof that they have tried to prevent the
killing. 23 Here, there is nothing in the record which would tend to show that the appellant ever attempted to prevent
the homicide.
The appellant is therefore, guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide, covered by Article 294, No. 1, of the Revised
Penal Cede, which is punished with reclusion perpetua to death. The commission of the offense was attended by the
aggravating circumstances of noctumity, abuse of superior strength and disregard to the age of the offended party,
the victim being 70 years of age. The case thus calls for the application of the maximum penalty provided by law,
namely death. But for lack of the necessary number of votes, appleant is hereby sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
As principal in the the commission thereof, the appelant should also be ordered to indemnify the heirs of the victim
jointly and severally, with Gerardo Casa;a, Anito Beberino , and Leodegario Estrada, the amount of P 12,000.00 for
the death of Gregoria Nu;ez aside from the amount of P 605.00, the value of the articles stolen.Consdering,
however, that Gerardo Casa;a, Anito Beberino, and Leodegario Estrada had previously withdrawn their appeal so
that the judgement of the trial court is already final as to them, their joint and solidary liability with the appelant for the
death of gregoria Nu;ez shall not exceed P 3,000.00.
Modified in the manner above indicated, the judgment appealed from should be, as it is hereby, affirmed with costs
against appelant.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 114046 October 24, 1994
HONORATO GALVEZ and GODOFREDO DIEGO, petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS (17TH DIVISION), First Asst. Provincial Prosecutor. DENNIS M. VILLA-IGNACIO of
Pasig, Rizal; THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES; and PNP P/SR. SUPT. RICARDO F. DE LEON, Camp
Commander and Head of the PNP Custodial Group, Camp Crame, Cubao, Quezon City, respondents.
Emerito M. Salva & Associates; Juanito L. Andrade; and Lazaro Law Firm for petitioners.

REGALADO, J.:
Submitted for resolution in the present special civil action are: (1) the basic petition for certiorari and mandamuswith a
petition for habeas corpus, to review the resolution issued by respondent Court of Appeals, dated
February 18, 1994, in CA-G.R. SP No. 33261; 1 (2) the Urgent Motion 2 and Supplemental Urgent Motion 3 for
Immediate Action on Petition for Habeas corpus; and (3) the Urgent Petition to Declare Judge Jaime N. Salazar, Jr.
and First Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Dennis M. Villa-Ignacio for Contempt and to Annul Proceedings (with
Immediate Prayer for another Cease and Desist Order). 4
On November 12, 1993, petitioners Honorato Galvez, the incumbent Mayor of San Ildefonso, Bulacan, and one
Godofredo Diego were charged in three separate informations with homicide and two counts of frustrated homicide
fot has been the rule that under the first paragraph of Section 14, Rule 110, the amendment of the information may
also be made even if it may result in altering the nature of the charge so long as it Regional Trial Court of Malolos,
Bulacan, Branch 14, and docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 3642-M-93 to 3644-M-93. 5 Both accused posted their
respective cash bail bonds and were subsequently released from detention.
On November 15, 1993, Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor Liberato L. Reyes filed a Motion to Defer Arraignment and
Subsequent Proceedings to enable him "to review the evidence on record and determine once more the proper
crimes chargeable against the accused," 6 which was granted by Judge Villajuan in an order dated November 16,
1993. 7Thereafter, pursuant to Department Order No. 369 of the Department of Justice, respondent Prosecutor
Dennis M. Villa-Ignacio was designated Acting Provincial Prosecutor of Bulacan and was instructed to conduct a reinvestigation of the aforesaid criminal cases filed against herein petitioners. 8
By virtue of a Manifestation with Ex-parte Motion dated November 23, 1993 9 filed by respondent prosecutor, the
proceedings were again ordered suspended by Judge Villajuan until after the prosecution's request for change of
venue shall have been resolved by the Supreme Court, and the preliminary investigation being conducted by the
former shall have been terminated. 10 It appears that on December 2, 1993, private complainants, through their
counsel, Atty. Silvestre R. Bello III, had filed with the Supreme Court a Petition for Change of Venue of Criminal
Cases Nos. 3642-M-93 to 3644-M-93, purportedly to safeguard the lives of the victims and their witnesses, and to
prevent a miscarriage of justice. 11
On December 15, 1993, before petitioners could be arraigned in Criminal Cases Nos. 3642-M-93 to 3644-M-93,
respondent prosecutor filed an Ex
parte Motion to Withdraw Informations in said cases. 12 This motion was granted by Judge Villajuan also on
December 15, 1993 and the cases were considered withdrawn from the docket of the court. 13 On the same day,
Prosecutor Villa-Ignacio filed four new informations against herein petitioners for murder, two counts of frustrated
murder, and violation of Presidential Decree No. 1866 for illegal possession of firearms 14 which were subsequently
raffled to the sala of Judge Victoria Pornillos of Branch 10, Regional
Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan and were docketed therein as Criminal Cases Nos. 4004-M-93 to 4007-M-93. No bail
having been recommended for the crime of murder, Judge Pornillos ordered the arrest of herein petitioners. 15 On
December 23, 1993, said presiding judge issued an order setting the arraignment of the accused for December 27,
1993. 16
On December 27, 1993, the scheduled arraignment before Judge Pornillos were reset due to the absence of
respondent prosecutor. On even date, petitioners filed before Judge Villajuan a Motion for Reconsideration of his
order of December 15, 1993 which granted the motion to withdraw the original informations. 17
Thereafter, a Motion to Quash the new informations for lack
of jurisdiction was filed by petitioners before Judge Pornillos on January 3, 1994. 18 At the court session set for the
arraignment of petitioners on January 24, 1994, Judge Pornillos issued an order denying the motion to quash and, at
the same time, directed that a plea of not guilty be entered for petitioners when the latter refused to enter their plea. 19
In the meantime, and prior to the arraignment of herein petitioners before Judge Pornillos, an order was issued on
January 20, 1994 by Judge Villajuan granting the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners, ordering the
reinstatement of Criminal Cases Nos. 3642-M-93 to 3644-M-93, and setting the arraignment of the accused therein
for February 8, 1994. 20 On said date, however, the arraignment was suspended and, in the meanwhile, petitioners

filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with respondent Court of Appeals, assailing the order dated
January 24, 1994 issued by Judge Pornillos which denied petitioners' motion to quash filed in Criminal Cases Nos.
4004-M-93 and 4007-M-93. As earlier stated, respondent court dismissed the petition in its questioned resolution of
February 18, 1994, hence this petition.
I. On the Main Petition
The main issue in this case involves a determination of the set
of informations under which herein petitioners should be tried, that is, (a) the first set of informations for homicide and
frustrated homicide in Criminal
Cases Nos. 3642-M-93 to 3644-M-93, or (b) the subsequent informations for murder, frustrated murder, and illegal
possession of firearms in Criminal Cases Nos. 4004-M-93 to 4007-M-93. Several corollary but equally important
issues have likewise been addressed to us for resolution, to wit:
1. Whether the ex parte motion to withdraw the original informations is null and void on the ground
that (a) there was no notice and hearing as required by Sections 4, 5 and 6, Rule 15 of the Rules of
Court; and (b) the appropriate remedy which should have been adopted by the prosecution was to
amend the informations by charging the proper offenses pursuant to Section 14 of Rule 110;
2. Whether the order granting the withdrawal of the original informations was immediately final and
executory;
3. Whether Ju