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G.R. NO.

142509 March 24, 2006 minimum, to Two (2) Years, Eleven (11) Months and Ten (10) Days, as maximum;
to indemnify the offended party in the amount of P20,000.00, by way of
JOSE ALEMANIA BUATIS, JR., Petitioner, compensatory damages; the amount of P10,000.00, as and for moral damages,
vs. and another amount of P10,000.00, for exemplary damages; to suffer all
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and ATTY. JOSE J. PIERAZ, Respondents. accessory penalties provided for by law; and, to pay the costs

Subsequently, petitioner appealed the RTCs decision to the CA which, in


a Decision dated January 18, 2000, affirmed in its entirety the decision of the trial
Facts court.
On August 18, 1995, the wife of private-complainant Atty. Jose J. Pieraz
Issue: The principal issue for resolution is whether or not petitioner is guilty of
(Atty. Pieraz), retrieved a letter from their mailbox addressed to her husband. The
the crime of libel.
letter was open, not contained in an envelope.
In the letter Atty. Pieraz was called stupid and his language as [E]nglish Ruling: Yes. He is guilty of the crime of libel
carabao by the letter sender, Buatis Jr., and even put Yours in Satan name and
his signature on the closing part. Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code defines libel as a public and
malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any
act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor,
Reacting to the insulting words used by Buatis, Jr., Atty. Pieraz filed
discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory
a complaint for libel against accused-appellant. Subject letter and its of one who is dead.
contents came to the knowledge not only of his wife but of his children as
well and they all chided him telling him: "Ginagawa ka lang gago dito." For an imputation to be libelous, the following requisites must concur: (a)
it must be defamatory; (b) it must be malicious; (c) it must be given publicity; and
The defense forwarded by accused-appellant Buatis, Jr. was denial. (d) the victim must be identifiable.8
According to him, it was at the behest of the president of the organization
"Nagkakaisang Samahan Ng Mga Taga Manggahan" or NASATAMA, and of a The last two elements have been duly established by the prosecution.
member, Teresita Quingco, that he had dictated to one of his secretaries, a There is publication in this case. In libel, publication means making the
comment to the letter of private-complainant in the second week of August 1995. defamatory matter, after it is written, known to someone other than the person
Initially during his testimony, Buatis, Jr. could not recall whether he had signed against whom it has been written.9 Petitioners subject letter-reply itself states
that letter-comment or if it was even addressed to Atty. Pieraz. Neither could he that the same was copy furnished to all concerned. Also, petitioner had dictated
remember if he had made and sent another letter, this time dated August 24, the letter to his secretary. It is enough that the author of the libel complained of
1995, to Atty. Pieraz. has communicated it to a third person.10 Furthermore, the letter, when found in
the mailbox, was open, not contained in an envelope thus, open to public.
RTC found him guilty of the crime of LIBEL defined in Art. 353 and
penalized under Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced to an
indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of Four (4) Months and One (1) Day, as
The victim of the libelous letter was identifiable as the subject letter-reply prosecution need not prove malice on the part of petitioner (malice in fact), for
was addressed to respondent himself. the law already presumes that petitioners imputation is malicious (malice in
law).15 A reading of petitioners subject letter-reply showed that he malevolently
It is order then to resolve the issues raised by petitioner as to whether the castigated respondent for writing such a demand letter to Mrs. Quingco. There
imputation is defamatory and malicious. was nothing in the said letter which showed petitioners good intention and
justifiable motive for writing the same in order to overcome the legal inference of
In determining whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to malice.
be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural and
ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by persons reading Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes libel by means of writings
them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense. or similar means with prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or
a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action
For the purpose of determining the meaning of any publication alleged to which may be brought by the offended party.
be libelous, we laid down the rule in Jimenez v. Reyes,12 to wit:
The courts are given the discretion to choose whether to impose a single
In Tawney vs. Simonson, Whitcomb & Hurley Co. (109 Minn., 341), the penalty or conjunctive penalties; that is, whether to impose a penalty of fine, or a
court had the following to say on this point: "In determining whether the specified penalty of imprisonment only, or a penalty of both fine and imprisonment.
matter is libelous per se, two rules of construction are conspicuously applicable:
(1) That construction must be adopted which will give to the matter such a SC Ruling: the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with
meaning as is natural and obvious in the plain and ordinary sense in which the the MODIFICATIONS that, in lieu of imprisonment, the penalty to be imposed
public would naturally understand what was uttered. (2) The published matter upon the petitioner shall be a fine of Six Thousand (P6,000.00) Pesos with
alleged to be libelous must be construed as a whole." subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The award of compensatory
damages is DELETED.
Gauging from the abovementioned tests, the words used in the letter
dated August 18, 1995 sent by petitioner to respondent is defamatory. In using
words such as "lousy", "inutile", "carabao English", "stupidity", and "satan", the
letter, as it was written, casts aspersion on the character, integrity and reputation
of respondent as a lawyer which exposed him to ridicule. No
evidence aliunde need be adduced to prove it. As the CA said, these very words of
petitioner have caused respondent to public ridicule as even his own family have
told him: "Ginagawa ka lang gago dito."14

Any of the imputations covered by Article 353 is defamatory; and, under


the general rule laid down in Article 354, every defamatory imputation is
presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable
motive for making it is shown. Thus, when the imputation is defamatory, the
G.R. No. 172716 November 17, 2010 after his arrest. Petitioner sought reconsideration but as of the filing of this
petition, the motion remained unresolved.
JASON IVLER y AGUILAR, Petitioner,
Relying on the arrest order against petitioner, respondent Ponce sought in the
vs. RTC the dismissal of S.C.A. No. 2803 for petitioners loss of standing to maintain
HON. MARIA ROWENA MODESTO-SAN PEDRO, Judge of the Metropolitan the suit. Petitioner contested the motion.
Trial Court, Branch 71, Pasig City, and EVANGELINE PONCE, Respondents.
RTC: In an Order dated 2 February 2006, the RTC dismissed S.C.A. No. 2803,
Facts narrowly grounding its ruling on petitioners forfeiture of standing to maintain
S.C.A. No. 2803 arising from the MeTCs order to arrest petitioner for his non-
Due to a vehicular collision in August 2004, petitioner Jason Ivler was charged appearance at the arraignment in Criminal Case No. 82366. Petitioner sought
before the MeTC of Pasig, with two separate offenses: (1) Reckless Imprudence reconsideration but this proved unavailing.
Resulting in Slight Physical Injuries (Criminal Case No. 82367) for injuries
sustained by respondent Evangeline L. Ponce (respondent Ponce); and (2) Hence, this petition.
Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Damage to Property (Criminal
Case No. 82366) for the death of respondent Ponces husband Nestor C. Ponce and Issue/s:
damage to the spouses Ponces vehicle. Petitioner posted bail for his temporary
release in both cases
(1) whether petitioner forfeited his standing to seek relief in S.C.A. 2803 when the
MeTC ordered his arrest following his non-appearance at the arraignment in
On 7 September 2004, petitioner pleaded guilty to the charge in Criminal Case No. Criminal Case No. 82366
82367 and was meted out the penalty of public censure. Invoking this conviction,
petitioner moved to quash the Information in Criminal Case No. 82366 for placing
(2) if in the negative, whether petitioners constitutional right under the Double
him in jeopardy of second punishment for the same offense of reckless
Jeopardy Clause bars further proceedings in Criminal Case No. 82366.
imprudence.
Ruling:
The MeTC refused quashal.
(1) petitioners non-appearance at the arraignment in Criminal Case No. 82366
Petitioner elevated the matter to the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch
did not divest him of personality to maintain the petition in S.C.A. 2803
157 (RTC), in a petition for certiorari (S.C.A. No. 2803). Petitioner also sought
from the MeTC the suspension of proceedings in Criminal Case No. 82366, (2) the protection afforded by the Constitution shielding petitioner from
including the arraignment on 17 May 2005, invoking S.C.A. No. 2803 as a prosecutions placing him in jeopardy of second punishment for the same offense
prejudicial question. Without acting on petitioners motion, the MeTC proceeded bars further proceedings in Criminal Case No.
with the arraignment and, because of petitioners absence, cancelled his bail and
ordered his arrest. Seven days later, the MeTC issued a resolution denying 82366.
petitioners motion to suspend proceedings and postponing his arraignment until
Petitioners Non-appearance at the Arraignment in The accuseds negative constitutional right not to be "twice put in jeopardy of
Criminal Case No. 82366 did not Divest him of Standing punishment for the same offense" protects him from, among others, post-
to Maintain the Petition in S.C.A. 2803 conviction prosecution for the same offense, with the prior verdict rendered by a
court of competent jurisdiction upon a valid information. It is not disputed that
Dismissals of appeals grounded on the appellants escape from custody or petitioners conviction in Criminal Case No. 82367 was rendered by a court of
violation of the terms of his bail bond are governed by the second paragraph of competent jurisdiction upon a valid charge. Thus, the case turns on the question
Section 8, Rule 124, in relation to Section 1, Rule 125, of the Revised Rules on whether Criminal Case No. 82366 and Criminal Case No. 82367 involve the "same
Criminal Procedure authorizing this Court or the Court of Appeals to "also, upon offense."
motion of the appellee or motu proprio, dismiss the appeal if the appellant
escapes from prison or confinement, jumps bail or flees to a foreign country Reckless Imprudence is a Single Crime,
during the pendency of the appeal." The "appeal" contemplated in Section 8 of its Consequences on Persons and
Rule 124 is a suit to review judgments of convictions. Property are Material Only to Determine
the Penalty
The RTCs dismissal of petitioners special civil action for certiorari to
review a pre-arraignment ancillary question on the applicability of the Due The two charges against petitioner, arising from the same facts, were
Process Clause to bar proceedings in Criminal Case No. 82366 finds no basis prosecuted under the same provision of the Revised Penal Code, as amended,
under procedural rules and jurisprudence. namely, Article 365 defining and penalizing quasi-offenses. (See Article 365)

The mischief in the RTCs treatment of petitioners non-appearance at his Structurally, these nine paragraphs are collapsible into four sub-
arraignment in Criminal Case No. 82366 as proof of his loss of standing becomes groupings relating to (1) the penalties attached to the quasi-offenses of
more evident when one considers the Rules of Courts treatment of a defendant "imprudence" and "negligence" (paragraphs 1-2); (2) a modified penalty scheme
who absents himself from post-arraignment hearings. Under Section 21, Rule for either or both quasi-offenses (paragraphs 3-4, 6 and 9); (3) a generic rule for
114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defendants absence merely trial courts in imposing penalties (paragraph 5); and (4) the definition of
renders his bondsman potentially liable on its bond (subject to cancellation "reckless imprudence" and "simple imprudence" (paragraphs 7-8).
should the bondsman fail to produce the accused within 30 days); the defendant Conceptually, quasi-offenses penalize "the mental attitude or condition behind
retains his standing and, should he fail to surrender, will be tried in absentia and the act, the dangerous recklessness, lack of care or foresight, the imprudencia
could be convicted or acquitted. Indeed, the 30-day period granted to the punible," unlike willful offenses which punish the intentional criminal act.
bondsman to produce the accused underscores the fact that mere non-
appearance does not ipso facto convert the accuseds status to that of a These structural and conceptual features of quasi-offenses set them
fugitive without standing. apart from the mass of intentional crimes under the first 13 Titles of Book II of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
Petitioners Conviction in Criminal Case No. 82367
Bars his Prosecution in Criminal Case No. 82366 Indeed, the notion that quasi-offenses, whether reckless or simple, are
distinct species of crime, separately defined and penalized under the framework
of our penal laws, is nothing new.
Prior Conviction or Acquittal of In contrast, Article 365 is a substantive rule penalizing not an act defined as a
Reckless Imprudence Bars felony but "the mental attitude x x x behind the act, the dangerous recklessness,
Subsequent Prosecution for the Same lack of care or foresight x x x,"47 a single mental attitude regardless of the
Quasi-Offense resulting consequences. Thus, Article 365 was crafted as one quasi-crime
resulting in one or more consequences.
The doctrine that reckless imprudence under Article 365 is a single quasi-
offense by itself and not merely a means to commit other crimes such that
conviction or acquittal of such quasi-offense bars subsequent prosecution for the
same quasi-offense, regardless of its various resulting acts, undergirded this By prohibiting the splitting of charges under Article 365, irrespective of
Courts unbroken chain of jurisprudence on double jeopardy as applied to Article the number and severity of the resulting acts, rampant occasions of
365 starting with People v. Diaz,25 decided in 1954. There, a full Court, speaking constitutionally impermissible second prosecutions are avoided, not to mention
through Mr. Justice Montemayor, ordered the dismissal of a case for "damage to that scarce state resources are conserved and diverted to proper use.
property thru reckless imprudence" because a prior case against the same
accused for "reckless driving," arising from the same act upon which the first Hence, SC hold that prosecutions under Article 365 should proceed from
prosecution was based, had been dismissed earlier. Since then, whenever the a single charge regardless of the number or severity of the consequences. In
same legal question was brought before the Court, that is, whether prior imposing penalties, the judge will do no more than apply the penalties under
conviction or acquittal of reckless imprudence bars subsequent prosecution for Article 365 for each consequence alleged and proven. In short, there shall be no
the same quasi-offense, regardless of the consequences alleged for both charges, splitting of charges under Article 365, and only one information shall be filed in
the Court unfailingly and consistently answered in the affirmative. the same first level court.

Article 48 Does not Apply to Acts Penalized The ruling secures for the accused facing an Article 365 charge a
Under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code stronger and simpler protection of their constitutional right under the Double
Jeopardy Clause. True, they are thereby denied the beneficent effect of the
The confusion bedeviling the question posed in this petition, to which the MeTC favorable sentencing formula under Article 48, but any disadvantage thus
succumbed, stems from persistent but awkward attempts to harmonize caused is more than compensated by the certainty of non-prosecution for quasi-
conceptually incompatible substantive and procedural rules in criminal law,
crime effects qualifying as "light offenses" (or, as here, for the more serious
namely, Article 365 defining and penalizing quasi-offenses and Article 48 on
consequence prosecuted belatedly). If it is so minded, Congress can re-craft
complexing of crimes, both under the Revised Penal Code. Article 48 is a
procedural device allowing single prosecution of multiple felonies falling under Article 365 by extending to quasi-crimes the sentencing formula of Article 48 so
either of two categories: (1) when a single act constitutes two or more grave or that only the most severe penalty shall be imposed under a single prosecution of
less grave felonies (thus excluding from its operation light felonies46); and (2) all resulting acts, whether penalized as grave, less grave or light offenses. This
when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other. The legislature will still keep intact the distinct concept of quasi-offenses. Meanwhile, the
crafted this procedural tool to benefit the accused who, in lieu of serving lenient schedule of penalties under Article 365, befitting crimes occupying a
multiple penalties, will only serve the maximum of the penalty for the most lower rung of culpability, should cushion the effect of this ruling.
serious crime.
SC GRANT the petition and REVERSE the Orders dated 2 February 2006 and 2
May 2006 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 157. Information in
Criminal Case No. 82366 against petitioner is Dismissed.