Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 147

RULE 116 - Arraignment and Plea

SECTION 1. Arraignment and Plea; How Made.

SECOND DIVISION

A.M. No. RTJ-14-2399 November 19, 2014


[Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 13-4013-RTJ]

GASPAR BANDOY, Complainant,


vs.
JUDGE JOSE S. JACINTO, JR., PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 45, and ACTING PRESIDING
JUDGE, BRANCH 46, both at REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, SAN JOSE, OCCIDENT AL
MINDORO, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

For review before the Court is this administrative case against respondent Judge Jose S. Jacinto, Jr.
(Judge Jacinto, Jr.) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branches 45 1 and 46,2 San Jose, Occidental
Mindoro, filed by Gaspar Bandoy (Bandoy) for Grave Abuse of Authority in relation to Criminal Case
No. 2-1928,3 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Caspar Bandoy, Peter Alfaro and Randolph
Ignacio" and Criminal Case No. Z-1910, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Romulo De Jesus, Jr."

Complainant Bandoy alleged, inhis verified complaint,4 that he was one of the accused in Criminal
Case No. 2-1928, for Serious Illegal Detention filed by Romulo De Jesus, Jr. (De Jesus, Jr.),which
was raffled to Branch 44 of the RTC, Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro (RTC-Br. 44), with Judge
Jacinto, Jr. as the Assisting Presiding Judge. Bandoy claimed that the case was initiated by De
Jesus, Jr. to get back at him for being instrumental in the filing of an earlier criminal complaint against
him for Violation of Article XXII, Section 261, paragraph 7, number 14 of the Omnibus Election Code
(Ballot Switching). The said case was likewise raffled to RTC-Br. 44.

Bandoy also averred that he was an election watcher of former Mayor Joel Panaligan during the 2007
local elections, while De Jesus, Jr., a teacher of their municipalitys public elementary school, was
one of the chairpersons of the Board of Election Inspectors; thatthey were both assigned in Precinct
3-A of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro; that De Jesus, Jr. was rumored to be closely associated with
the rival mayoralty candidate, Voltaire Anthony C. Villarosa (Voltaire), son of House representative
Amelita C. Villarosa (Cong. Villarosa)and Mayor Jose Tapales Villarosa (Mayor Villarosa) of San
Jose, Occidental Mindoro; that in the said local elections, De Jesus, Jr. was caught in the act of ballot
switching, which was captured on video by a member of the media, a certain Randy Bool; that by
virtue of a search warrant from the Commission of Elections (COMELEC), De Jesus, Jr. was caught
in possession of some ballots insidehis backpack; and that as a result of this incident, De Jesus, Jr.
was criminally charged with the offense of ballot switching. Accordingly, on August 17, 2007, a
warrant of arrest was issued against De Jesus, Jr.5

According to Bandoy, on August 20, 2007, De Jesus, Jr. personally appeared before Provincial
Prosecutor Levitico Salcedo to file a criminal case for Serious Illegal Detention against him, Peter
Alfaro, Randolph Ignacio, and then Election Supervisor, Atty. Judy Lorenzo (Atty. Lorenzo).
Apparently, De Jesus, Jr. did this while there was a standing warrant of arrest against him. Worse, De
Jesus, Jr. remained at-large until he was able to post bail on March 7, 2008 before then Las Pinas
RTC Judge Raul B. Villanueva.6 Because complainant Bandoy was charged with Serious Illegal
Detention, the provincial prosecutor recommended "no bail" leaving them incarcerated for morethan
two years.7

Bandoy further claims that Judge Jacinto, Jr. committed grave abuse of his authority by displaying
manifest bias and partiality in favor of De Jesus, Jr. when he granted several postponements of De
Jesus, Jr.s arraignment, originally scheduled on April 23, 2008,8 but was reset for seven times until
De Jesus, Jr. entered a plea of not guilty supposedly inside Judge Jacinto, Jr.s chambers on July 6,
2011.9
Bandoy emphasized that many of the said resettings were mostly due to De Jesus, Jr.s non-
appearance for failure to locate him at his given address. Despite these supposed obvious court
defiance, Judge Jacinto, Jr. remained lenient and seemingly tolerated his continuous non-appearance
in the courts subsequent scheduled hearings. Another example of Judge Jacinto, Jr.s supposed
unreasonable bias towards Bandoy was his lack of interest to dispose of the case of serious illegal
detention despite De Jesus, Jr.s obvious dilatory tactics and unjustified absences when his
appearance was necessary.

Bandoy, along with his co-accused, moved for reconsideration and filed a petition for review before
the Department of Justice (DOJ)to have the serious illegal detention case against them dismissed.
Meanwhile, coaccused Atty. Lorenzo filed a separate petition with the Court of Appeals (CA)and won
the case. The Court later affirmed the dismissal of the case against her. At first, the DOJ denied their
petition. Upon reconsideration, however, the DOJ, under the helm of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima,
directed the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, Occidental Mindoro, to cause the withdrawal of the
case against Bandoy and his co-accused.10 Accordingly, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor filed
its Motion to Withdraw Information.

Judge Jacinto, Jr., in an order,11 dated July 5, 2011, denied the motion to withdraw information. In the
end, Bandoy was only able to regain temporary freedom when Judge Jacinto, Jr. finally resolved 12 to
allow him to post a bail bond of 100,000.00 each or a total of 300,000.00. 13 Bandoy added that
Voltaire was a principal sponsor in the wedding of Judge Jacinto, Jr.s child.

Thereafter, Judge Jacinto, Jr. was assigned to another sala, while Judge Wilfredo De Joya Mayor
(Judge Mayor) became the assisting presiding judge of Branch 44. It was during this time that the
case for serious illegal detention was temporarily dismissed, but upon reconsideration, Judge Mayor
decided to reinstate and continue the case against Bandoy. Meanwhile, the case of ballot switching
against De Jesus, Jr. was dismissed on October 25, 2012,14while their bail for the serious illegal
detention case was cancelled.15

According to complainant Bandoy, the compelling force that made him initiate this present
administrative case was because Judge Jacinto, Jr. would take over Judge Mayors assignments on
account of the latters compulsory retirement from service on December 1, 2012, which would include
their pending serious illegal detention case. He claimed that Judge Jacinto, Jr. ordered the police and
the CIDG to re-arrest him and his coaccused even though there was no warrant of arrest against
them.16 He begged the Court not to let Judge Jacinto, Jr. handle their case of serious illegal detention
for fear that they would have to endure another bout of extreme bias and partiality from him.

In his Comment,17 Judge Jacinto, Jr. denied being an ally of the Villarosa clan.18 He also denied
having a hand in the order to arrest Bandoy and his co-accused as the Chief of PNP and the CIDG
Chief, both of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, merely consulted him on how to go about the order of
cancellation of bail that Judge Mayor issued. He explained "wala po akong alam sa Kautusan kaya
binasa po sa akin ang nilalaman nito sa cellphone at pagkatapos ay nagwika po akong parang may
kulang sa Kautusan at kapag nakansela ang piyansa ay babalik sila sa selda dahil wala na po silang
piyansa (as a consequence thereof)."19 Judge Jacinto, Jr. even refused to issue a warrant of arrest
when he was asked because he was not handling the case anymore. 20

Bandoy, in his Reply,21 brought to the attention of the Court that Judge Jacinto, Jr., in order to
thwartthe enemies of his supposed master, Mayor Villarosa, issued warrants of arrest against ten
individuals.22 He also divulged that the audit team from the Court was personally assisted by Judge
Jacinto, Jr. and given accommodations in "Aroma Center," one of the properties of Mayor
Villarosa.23 Bandoy was thankful that Judge Jacinto, Jr. did not deny the fact that the police officials
wanted to arrest them even without a warrant of arrest. 24 Bandoy showed a timeline of events
supposedly depicting how De Jesus, Jr., through the tolerance and partiality of Judge Jacinto, Jr.,
evaded arraignment on numerous occasions effectively delaying the progress of the case for ballot
switching and even actually conducting the arraignment in his chambers.25 He further reiterated his
plea not to let Judge Jacinto, Jr. preside over the affairs of Branch 44.

In his Rejoinder,26 Judge Jacinto, Jr. stated that he was again assigned as Assisting Presiding Judge
of Branch 44.27He clarified that he indeed issued warrants of arrest against ten individuals in
connection with a serious illegal detention case against them, but only after a finding of probable
cause by the public prosecutor handling it. Judge Jacinto, Jr. reiterated that he merely affirmed the
finding of probable cause, which justified the issuance of the warrants of arrest as the charge was a
non-bailable offense.28 He likewise denied seeking any favor from Mayor Villarosa to accommodate
the audit team in their property, the Aroma Family Hotel. He explained that the audit team paid him a
"courtesy call" where he assured the team of his cooperation.29 He again restated that the police
officials merely coordinated with him as was customary because he was the Executive Judge of the
municipality.30 Judge Jacinto, Jr. believes that Bandoys accusations against him were designed to
oust him as Presiding Judge of Branches 45 and 46 of San Jose and even as Assisting Presiding
Judge of Branch 44, Mamburao, both in the province of Occidental Mindoro. 31

In its Report,32 dated June 03, 2014, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) did not give
credence to Bandoys allegation that Judge Jacinto, Jr. issued an order for his arrest without a
warrant and to the insinuation that the Courts audit team was conveniently housed in Aroma Family
Hotel of the Villarosas for failure to present proof.33The OCA observed, however, that Judge Jacinto,
Jr. never refuted the allegations of leniency over the several resettings of the arraignment of De
Jesus, Jr. and that the arraignment was held in his chambers. As such, the OCA equated his silence
to admission.34

Thus, the OCA recommended that:

1. The administrative complaint against Presiding Judge Jose S. Jacinto, Jr., Branch 45,
Regional Trial Court, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, be RE-DOCKETED as regular
administrative matter; and

2. Respondent Judge Jose Jacinto, Jr. be found GUILTY of Bias and Partiality and Gross
Ignorance of the Law and Procedure and, accordingly, be FINEDin the amount of Forty
Thousand Pesos (40,000.00) with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or
similar act shall be dealt with more severely.35

The Court's Ruling

The Court agrees with the recommendation of the OCA.

Rule 3.01, Canon 3 of the Code ofJudicial Conduct mandates that a judge shall be faithful to the law
and maintain professional competence. Indeed, competence and diligence are prerequisites to the
due performance of judicial office.36

Everyone, especially a judge, is presumed to know the law. One who accepts the exalted position of
a judge owes the public and the Court the duty to maintain professional competence at all times.37

In this case, Judge Jacinto, Jr. was directly confronted with an allegation that he arraigned De Jesus,
Jr. inside his chambers.1wphi1 He was given the opportunity to answer, but he chose not to delve
into it. Ultimately, Judge Jacinto, Jr. did not squarely face the issues being imputed against him,
which was quite irregular since it was his name and his capacity as a member of the bench, that was
being challenged. As aptly observed by the OCA, "the natural instinct of man impels him to resist an
unfounded claim or imputation and defend himself. It isagainst human nature to just remain reticent
and say nothing in the face of false accusations."38 His silence introduces doubt in the minds of the
public, which is not acceptable.

Given the exacting standards required of magistrates in the application of the law and procedure, the
Court finds Judge Jacinto, Jr. administratively guilty of gross ignorance of Rule 116 of the Revised
Rules of Court, specifically Section 1(a) thereof requiring arraignment of an accused to be made in
open court, to wit:

Section 1. Arraignment and plea, how made. (a) The accused must be arraigned before the court
where the complaint or information was filed or assigned for trial. The arraignment shall be made in
open courtby the judge or clerk by furnishing the accused with a copy of the complaint or information,
reading the same in the language or dialect known to him, and asking him whether he pleads guilty or
not guilty. The prosecution may call at the trial witnesses other then those named in the complaint or
information.

(Emphasis supplied)
The procedural steps laid down in Section 1(a) of Rule 116 are not empty rituals that a judge can take
nonchalantly. Each step constitutes an integral part of that crucial stage in criminal litigation "where
the issues are joined x x x and without which the proceedings cannot advance further." 39

Thus, anything less than is required by Section 1(a) of Rule 116 constitutes gross ignorance of the
law.40 There is gross ignorance of the law when the error committed by the judge was "gross or
patent, deliberate or malicious."41 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.42 Gross
ignorance of the law or incompetence cannot be excused by a claim of good faith. 43

The Court has impressed upon judges that they owe it to the public and the legal profession to know
the very law that they are supposed to apply in a given controversy. 44 They are called upon to exhibit
more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules, to be conversant with the
basic law, and to maintain the desired professional competence.45 When a judge displays an utter
lack of familiarity with the rules, he erodes the confidence of the public in the courts. A judge owes the
public and the Court the duty to be proficient in the law and is expected to keep abreast of laws and
prevailing jurisprudence. Ignorance of the law by a judge can easily be the mainspring of injustice. 46

Canon 2,47 Rule 2.0148 and Canon 349 of the Code of Judicial Conduct likewise emphasize that
judges, as officers of the court, have the duty to see to it that justice is dispensed with evenly and
fairly. Not only must they be honest and impartial, but they must also appear to be honest and
impartial in the dispensation of justice. Judges should make sure that their acts are circumspect and
do not arouse suspicion in the minds of the public. When they fail to do so, such acts may cast doubt
upon their integrity and ultimately the judiciary in general.50 As held in Joselito Rallos, et al., vs. Judge
Ireneo Lee Gako Jr., Branch 5 RTC, Cebu City:51

Well-known is the judicial norm that "judges should not only be impartial but should also appear
impartial." Jurisprudence repeatedly teaches that litigants are entitled to nothing less than the cold
neutrality of an impartial judge. The other elements of due process, like notice and hearing, would
become meaningless if the ultimate decision is rendered by a partial or biased judge. Judges must
not only render just, correct and impartial decisions, but must do so in a manner free of any suspicion
as to their fairness, impartiality and integrity.

This reminder applies all the more sternly to municipal, metropolitan and regional trial court judges
like herein respondent, because they are judicial front-liners who have direct contact with the litigating
parties. They are the intermediaries between conflicting interests and the embodiments of the
peoples sense of justice. Thus, their official conduct should be beyond reproach.

Here, the Court cannot fathom why the arraignment of De Jesus, Jr. was postponed from 2007 to
2011 without appropriate action coming from the court. Judge Jacinto, Jr. should have availed of
known legal remedies to compel De Jesus, Jr. to personally appear for his arraignment, but he did
not. The appearance of leniency seemingly exhibited in favor of De Jesus, Jr. gives an impression of
bias and partiality that should be addressed and corrected.1wphi1

Consequently, under Section 8(9), Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 01-8-10-
SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious charge. Section 11 (A) of the
same Rule provides that the penalty to be imposed if a respondent Judge is found guilty of a serious
charge is either a fine of more than 20,000.00 but not more than 40,000.00, suspension from office
without salary and other benefits for more than three but not exceeding six months, or 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.

The Court is aware of the other pending administrative cases against Judge Jacinto, Jr., but they
cannot be fully considered in the imposition of the penalty in this case as they are still under review
and evaluation. Thus, a fine of 40,000.0052 is deemed appropriate under the circumstances.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Jose S. Jacinto, Jr. GUILTY of Gross Ignorance of
the Law and Procedure and of Bias and Partiality. Accordingly, he is FINED in the amount of Forty
Thousand (40,000.00) Pesos with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act
shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

SECOND DIVISION

BRIG. GEN. (Ret.) JOSE RAMISCAL, JR., G.R. Nos. 172476-99


Petitioner,
Present:

CARPIO, J.,
Chairperson,
VELASCO, JR.,*
- versus - PERALTA,
BERSAMIN,** and
ABAD, JJ.

SANDIGANBAYAN and Promulgated:


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondents. September 15, 2010
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

DECISION
CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a special civil action for certiorari[1] seeking to annul the 5 April 2006 Resolution[2] of
the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division in Criminal Case Nos. 25122-45. The assailed Resolution
denied petitioners motion to set aside his arraignment on 26 February 2006 pending resolution of
his motion for reconsideration of the Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him.

The Facts

Petitioner Jose S. Ramiscal, Jr. was a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),
with the rank of Brigadier General, when he served as President of the AFP-Retirement and
Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS) from 5 April 1994 to 27 July 1998.[3]

During petitioners term as president of AFP-RSBS, the Board of Trustees of AFP-RSBS approved
the acquisition of 15,020 square meters of land situated in General Santos City for development
as housing projects.[4]

On 1 August 1997, AFP-RSBS, represented by petitioner, and Atty. Nilo J. Flaviano, as attorney-
in-fact of the 12 individual vendors,[5] executed and signed bilateral deeds of sale over the subject
property, at the agreed price of P10,500.00 per square meter. Petitioner forthwith caused the
payment to the individual vendors of the purchase price of P10,500.00 per square meter of the
property.
Subsequently, Flaviano executed and signed unilateral deeds of sale over the same property. The
unilateral deeds of sale reflected a purchase price of only P3,000.00 per square meter instead of
the actual purchase price of P10,500.00 per square meter. On 24 September 1997, Flaviano
presented the unilateral deeds of sale for registration. The unilateral deeds of sale became the
basis of the transfer certificates of title issued by the Register of Deeds of General Santos City to
AFP-RSBS.[6]
On 18 December 1997, Luwalhati R. Antonino, the Congresswoman representing the first district
of South Cotabato, which includes General Santos City, filed in the Ombudsman a complaint-
affidavit[7] against petitioner, along with 27 other respondents, for (1) violation of Republic Act
No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and (2) malversation of
public funds or property through falsification of public documents. The case was docketed as
Case No. OMB-3-98-0020.

After preliminary investigation, the Ombudsman, in its 20 January 1999 Resolution, [8] found
petitioner probably guilty of violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 and falsification of public
documents, thus:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Office finds and so holds that the
following crimes were committed and that respondents, whose names appear below,
are probably guilty thereof:
xxxx
4. JOSE RAMISCAL, JR., WILFREDO PABALAN, NILO FLAVIANO,
conspirators for twelve (12) counts of falsification of public documents relative to
the twelve (12) unilateral Deeds of Sale;
xxxx
6. JOSE RAMISCAL, JR. WILFREDO PABALAN, and NILO FLAVIANO twelve
(12) counts of violation of section 3(e) of RA 3019 for short-changing the
government in the correct amount of taxes due for the sale of Lot X to AFP-RSBS;[9]

On 28 January 1999, the Ombudsman filed in the Sandiganbayan 12 informations[10] for violation
of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 and 12 informations[11] for falsification of public documents against
petitioner and several other co-accused.
Petitioner filed his first motion for reconsideration dated 12 February 1999,[12] with a
supplemental motion dated 28 May 1999,[13] of the Ombudsmans finding of probable cause
against him. In its 11 June 1999 Order,[14] the Sandiganbayan disposed of petitioners first motion
for reconsideration, thus:

WHEREFORE, the prosecution is given 60 days from today within which to evaluate
its evidence and to do whatever is appropriate on the Motion for Reconsideration
dated February 12, 1999 and supplemental motion thereof dated May 28, 1999 of
accused Jose Ramiscal and to inform this Court within the said period as to its
findings and recommendations together with the action thereon of the Ombudsman.

In a memorandum dated 22 November 2001, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OMB-OSP)
recommended that petitioner be excluded from the informations. On review, the Office of Legal
Affairs (OMB-OLA), in a memorandum dated 18 December 2001, recommended the contrary,
stressing that petitioner participated in and affixed his signature on the contracts to sell, bilateral
deeds of sale, and various agreements, vouchers, and checks for the purchase of the subject
property.[15]

The memoranda of OMB-OSP and OMB-OLA were forwarded for comment to the Office of the
Ombudsman for Military (OMB-Military). In a memorandum dated 21 August 2002, the OMB-
Military adopted the memorandum of OMB-OSP recommending the dropping of petitioners
name from the informations. Acting Ombudsman Margarito Gervacio approved the
recommendation of the OMB-Military. However, the recommendation of the OMB-Military was
not manifested before the Sandiganbayan as a final disposition of petitioners first motion for
reconsideration.

A panel of prosecutors[16] was tasked to review the records of the case. After thorough review,
the panel of prosecutors found that petitioner indeed participated in and affixed his signature on
the contracts to sell, bilateral deeds of sale, and various agreements, vouchers, and checks for the
purchase of the property at the price of P10,500.00 per square meter. The panel of prosecutors
posited that petitioner could not feign ignorance of the execution of the unilateral deeds of sale,
which indicated the false purchase price of P3,000.00 per square meter. The panel of prosecutors
concluded that probable cause existed for petitioners continued prosecution. In its 19 December
2005 memorandum,[17] the panel of prosecutors recommended the following:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, undersigned prosecutors recommend the


following:

1. The August 2002 approved Recommendation of the Ombudsman-


Military be set aside and the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Ramiscal
(petitioner) be DENIED;

2. Another information for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 be filed


against Ramiscal and all the other accused for causing damage to the government
when it caused the payment of the amount of Php 10,500.00 per square meter for the
subject lots when the actual amount should only be Php 3,000.00 per square
meter.[18] (Emphasis supplied)

Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez approved the recommendation of the panel of


prosecutors. Upon receipt of the final findings of the Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan scheduled
the arraignment of petitioner.
Meanwhile, on 26 January 2006, petitioner filed his second motion for reconsideration [19] of the
Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him.

On 26 February 2006, petitioner was arraigned. For his refusal to enter a plea,
the Sandiganbayan entered in his favor a plea of not guilty. On 9 March 2006, petitioner filed a
motion to set aside his arraignment[20] pending resolution of his second motion for reconsideration
of the Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him.

The Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan pointed out that petitioners second motion for reconsideration of the
Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him was a prohibited pleading.
The Sandiganbayan explained that whatever defense or evidence petitioner may have should be
ventilated in the trial of the case. In its assailed 5 April 2006 Resolution,
the Sandiganbayan denied for lack of merit petitioners motion to set aside his arraignment, thus:

WHEREFORE, the Motion to Set Aside Arraignment is hereby DENIED for lack of
merit.

SO ORDERED.[21]

The Issue

Did the Sandiganbayan commit grave abuse of discretion when it denied petitioners motion to
set aside his arraignment pending resolution of his second motion for reconsideration of the
Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him?

The Courts Ruling

The petition has no merit.

Petitioner contends that the Ombudsman should have excluded him from the informations. He
claims lack of probable cause to indict him considering the prior findings of the Ombudsman
recommending the dropping of the cases against him. Petitioner claims that heads of offices have
to rely to a reasonable extent on their subordinates and that there should be grounds other than
the mere signature appearing on a questioned document to sustain a conspiracy charge.

Respondent Sandiganbayan counters that it correctly denied petitioners motion to set aside his
arraignment. Respondent court argues that petitioners motion for reconsideration, filed on 26
January 2006 and pending with the Ombudsman at the time of his arraignment, violated Section
7, Rule II of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, as amended. Respondent
court maintains that the memorandum of the panel of prosecutors finding probable cause against
petitioner was the final decision of the Ombudsman.

The Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, as amended by Administrative Order
No. 15, Series of 2001,[22] sanction the immediate filing of an information in the proper court
upon a finding of probable cause, even during the pendency of a motion for
reconsideration. Section 7, Rule II of the Rules, as amended, provides:
Section 7. Motion for Reconsideration.
a) Only one motion for reconsideration or reinvestigation of an approved order
or resolution shall be allowed, the same to be filed within five (5) days from notice
thereof with the Office of the Ombudsman, or the proper Deputy Ombudsman as the
case may be, with corresponding leave of court in cases where the information has
already been filed in court;
b) The filing of a motion for reconsideration/reinvestigation shall not bar the
filing of the corresponding information in Court on the basis of the finding of
probable cause in the resolution subject of the motion. (Emphasis supplied)
If the filing of a motion for reconsideration of the resolution finding probable cause cannot bar
the filing of the corresponding information, then neither can it bar the arraignment of the accused,
which in the normal course of criminal procedure logically follows the filing of the information.

An arraignment is that stage where, in the mode and manner required by the Rules, an accused,
for the first time, is granted the opportunity to know the precise charge that confronts him. The
accused is formally informed of the charges against him, to which he enters a plea of guilty or
not guilty.[23]

Under Section 7 of Republic Act No. 8493,[24] otherwise known as the Speedy Trial Act of 1998,
the court must proceed with the arraignment of an accused within 30 days from the filing of the
information or from the date the accused has appeared before the court in which the charge is
pending, whichever is later, thus:
Section 7. Time Limit Between Filing of Information and Arraignment and Between
Arraignment and Trial. - The arraignment of an accused shall be held within
thirty (30) days from the filing of the information, or from the date the accused
has appeared before the justice, judge or court in which the charge is pending,
whichever date last occurs. x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Section 1(g), Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, which implements Section 7 of RA 8493, provides:

Section 1. Arraignment and plea; how made.


(g) Unless a shorter period is provided by special law or Supreme Court circular, the
arraignment shall be held within thirty (30) days from the date the court
acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused. xxx (Emphasis supplied)

Section 1(g), Rule 116 of the Rules of Court and the last clause of Section 7 of RA 8493 mean
the same thing, that the 30-day period shall be counted from the time the court acquires
jurisdiction over the person of the accused, which is when the accused appears before the court.

The grounds for suspension of arraignment are provided under Section 11, Rule 116 of the Rules
of Court, which applies suppletorily in matters not provided under the Rules of Procedure of the
Office of the Ombudsman or the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan, thus:
Sec. 11. Suspension of arraignment. Upon motion by the proper party, the
arraignment shall be suspended in the following cases:

(a) The accused appears to be suffering from an unsound mental condition which
effectively renders him unable to fully understand the charge against him and to plead
intelligently thereto. In such case, the court shall order his mental examination and,
if necessary, his confinement for such purpose.
(b) There exists a prejudicial question; and
(c) A petition for review of the resolution of the prosecutor is pending at either the
Department of Justice, or the Office of the President; provided, that the period of
suspension shall not exceed sixty (60) days counted from the filing of the petition
with the reviewing office.[25]

Petitioner failed to show that any of the instances constituting a valid ground for suspension of
arraignment obtained in this case. Thus, the Sandiganbayan committed no error when it
proceeded with petitioners arraignment, as mandated by Section 7 of RA 8493.
Further, as correctly pointed out by the Sandiganbayan in its assailed Resolution, petitioners
motion for reconsideration filed on 26 January 2006 was already his second motion for
reconsideration of the Ombudsmans finding of probable cause against him. The Ombudsman, in
its 19 December 2005 memorandum, has already denied petitioners first motion for
reconsideration,[26] impugning for the first time the Ombudsmans finding of probable cause
against him. Under Section 7, Rule II of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman,
petitioner can no longer file another motion for reconsideration questioning yet again the same
finding of the Ombudsman. Otherwise, there will be no end to litigation.

We agree with the Sandiganbayan that petitioners defenses are evidentiary in nature and are best
threshed out in the trial of the case on the merits. Petitioners claim that the Ombudsman made
conflicting conclusions on the existence of probable cause against him is baseless. The
memorandum of the OMB-Military, recommending the dropping of the cases against petitioner,
has been effectively overruled by the memorandum of the panel of prosecutors, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, undersigned prosecutors recommend the
following:

1. The August 2002 approved Recommendation of the Ombudsman-


Military be set aside and the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Ramiscal be
DENIED;[27] (Emphasis supplied)

As the final word on the matter, the decision of the panel of prosecutors finding probable cause
against petitioner prevails. This Court does not ordinarily interfere with the Ombudsmans finding
of probable cause.[28] The Ombudsman is endowed with a wide latitude of investigatory and
prosecutory prerogatives in the exercise of its power to pass upon criminal complaints.[29] As this
Court succinctly stated in Alba v. Hon. Nitorreda:[30]
Moreover, this Court has consistently refrained from interfering with the exercise by
the Ombudsman of his constitutionally mandated investigatory and prosecutory
powers. Otherwise stated, it is beyond the ambit of this Court to review the exercise
of discretion of the Ombudsman in prosecuting or dismissing a complaint filed before
it. Such initiative and independence are inherent in the Ombudsman who, beholden
to no one, acts as the champion of the people and preserver of the integrity of the
public service.[31]
In Ocampo, IV v. Ombudsman,[32] the Court explained the rationale behind this policy, thus:
The rule is based not only upon respect for the investigatory and prosecutory powers
granted by the Constitution to the Office of the Ombudsman but upon practicality as
well. Otherwise, the functions of the courts will be grievously hampered by
innumerable petitions assailing the dismissal of investigatory proceedings conducted
by the Office of the Ombudsman with regard to complaints filed before it, in much
the same way that the courts would be extremely swamped if they could be compelled
to review the exercise of discretion on the part of the fiscals or prosecuting attorneys
each time they decide to file an information in court or dismiss a complaint by a
private complainant.[33]

Significantly, while it is the Ombudsman who has the full discretion to determine whether or not
a criminal case should be filed in the Sandiganbayan, once the case has been filed with said court,
it is the Sandiganbayan, and no longer the Ombudsman, which has full control of the case.[34]
In this case, petitioner failed to establish that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it denied petitioners motion to set
aside his arraignment. There is grave abuse of discretion when power is exercised in an arbitrary,
capricious, whimsical, or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility so patent and
gross as to amount to evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by
law.[35]

Absent a showing of grave abuse of discretion, this Court will not interfere with
the Sandiganbayans jurisdiction and control over a case properly filed before it.
The Sandiganbayan is empowered to proceed with the trial of the case in the manner it determines
best conducive to orderly proceedings and speedy termination of the case.[36] There being no
showing of grave abuse of discretion on its part, the Sandiganbayan should continue its
proceedings with all deliberate dispatch.

We remind respondent to abide by this Courts ruling in Republic v. Sandiganbayan,[37] where we


stated that the mere filing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court does not
by itself merit a suspension of the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan, unless a temporary
restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued against the Sandiganbayan.
Section 7, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court so provides:

Section 7. Expediting proceedings; injunctive relief. The court in which the


petition [for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus] is filed may issue orders expediting
the proceedings, and it may also grant a temporary restraining order or a writ of
preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such
proceedings. The petition 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. (Emphasis supplied)

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the assailed 5 April 2006 Resolution of
the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case Nos. 25122-45, which denied petitioners motion to set aside
his arraignment. This Decision is immediately executory.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. 02-1-18-SC, Supra.

Republic Act No. 8493 February 12, 1998

AN ACT TO ENSURE A SPEEDY TRIAL OF ALL CRIMINAL CASES BEFORE THE


SANDIGANBAYAN, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT, MUNICIPAL
TRIAL COURT, AND MUNICIPAL CIRCUIT TRIAL COURT, APPROPRIATING FUNDS
THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress


assembled::
Section 1. Title. - This Act shall be known as the "Speedy Trial Act of 1998."

Section 2. Mandatory Pre-Trial in Criminal Cases. - In all cases cognizable by the Municipal Trial
Court, Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Regional Trial Court, and the
Sandiganbayan, the justice or judge shall, after arraignment, order a pre-trial conference to consider
the following:

(a) Plea bargaining;

(b) Stipulation of Facts;

(c) Marking for identification of evidence of parties;

(d) Waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence; and

(e) Such other matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial.

Section 3. Pre-Trial Agreement. - All agreements or admissions made or entered into during the
pre-trial conference shall be reduced to writing and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise the
same shall not be used in evidence against the accused. The agreements in relation to matters
referred to in Section 2 hereof is subject to the approval of the court: Provided, That the agreement
on the plea of the accused to a lesser offense may only be revised, modified, or annulled by the court
when the same is contrary to law, public morals, or public policy.

Section 4. Nonappearance at Pre-Trial Conference. - Where counsel for the accused or the
prosecutor does not appear at the pre-trial conference and does not offer an acceptable excuse for
his/her lack of cooperation, the pre-trial justice or judge may impose proper sanctions or penalties.

Section 5. Pre-Trial Order. - After the pre-trial conference, the court shall issue an order reciting the
actions taken, the facts stipulated, and evidence marked. Such order shall bind the parties, limit the
trial to matters not disposed of and control the course of action during the trial, unless modified by the
court to prevent manifest injustice.

Section 6. Time Limit for Trial. - In criminal cases involving persons charged of a crime, except
those subject to the Rules on Summary Procedure, or where the penalty prescribed by law does not
exceed six (6) months imprisonment, or a fine of One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) or both,
irrespective of other imposable penalties, the justice or judge shall, after consultation with the public
prosecutor and the counsel for the accused, set the case for continuous trial on a weekly or other
short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy trial. In no case shall the
entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the first day of trial, except as otherwise
authorized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pursuant to Section 3, Rule 22 of the Rules of
Court.

Section 7. Time Limit Between Filing of Information and Arraignment and Between
Arraignment and Trial. - The arraignment of an accused shall be held within thirty (30) days from the
filing of the information, or from the date the accused has appeared before the justice, judge or court
in which the charge is pending, whichever date last occurs. Thereafter, where a plea of not guilty is
entered, the accused shall have at least fifteen (15) days to prepare for trial. Trial shall commence
within thirty (30) days from arraignment as fixed by the court.

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.

Section 8. Time Limit Following an Order for New Trial. - If the accused is to be tried again
following an order of a court for a new trial, the trial shall commence within thirty (30) days from the
date the order for a new trial becomes final, except that the court retrying the case may extend such
period but in any case shall not exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the date the order for a
new trial becomes final if unavailability of witnesses or other factors resulting from passage of time
shall make trial within thirty (30) days impractical.
Section 9. Extended Time Limit. - Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Act, for the
first twelve-calendar-month period following its effectivity, the time limit with respect to the period from
arraignment to trial imposed by Section 7 of this Act 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 with respect to the period from arraignment to trial shall be eighty
(80) days.

Section 10. 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:

(1) delay resulting from an examination of the accused, and hearing on his/her mental
competency, or physical incapacity;

(2) delay resulting from trials with respect to charges against the accused;

(3) delay resulting from interlocutory appeals;

(4) delay resulting from hearings on pre-trial motions: Provided, That the delay does not
exceed thirty (30) days,

(5) delay resulting from orders of inhibition, or proceedings relating to change of venue
of cases or transfer from other courts;

(6) delay resulting from a finding of the existence of a valid prejudicial question; and

(7) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty (30) days, during
which any proceeding concerning the accused is actually under advisement.

(b) Any period of delay resulting from the absence or unavailability of the accused or an
essential witness.

For purposes of this subparagraph, an accused or an essential witness shall be considered


absent when his/her whereabouts are unknown and, in addition, he/she is attempting to avoid
apprehension or prosecution or his/her whereabouts cannot be determined by due diligence.
An accused or an essential witness shall be considered unavailable whenever his/her
whereabouts are known but his/her presence for trial cannot be obtained by due diligence or
he/she resists appearing at or being returned for trial.

(c) Any period of delay resulting from the fact that the accused is mentally incompetent or
physically unable to stand trial.

(d) If the information is dismissed upon motion of the prosecution and thereafter a charge is
filed against the accused for the same offense, or any offense required to be joined with that
offense, any period of delay from the date the charge was dismissed to the date the time
limitation would commence to run as to the subsequent charge had there been no previous
charge.

(e) A reasonable period of delay when the accused is joined for trial with a co-accused over
whom the court has not acquired jurisdiction, or as to whom the time for trial has not run and
no motion for severance has been granted.

(f) Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by any justice or judge motu
propio or on motion of the accused or his/her counsel or at the request of the public
prosecutor, if the justice or judge granted such continuance on the basis of his/her findings that
the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the
defendant in a speedy trial. No such period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by
the court in accordance with this subparagraph shall be excludable under this section unless
the court sets forth, in the record of the case, either orally or in writing, its reasons for finding
that the ends of justice served by the granting of such continuance outweigh the best interests
of the public and the accused in a speedy trial.

Section 11. Factors for Granting Continuance. - The factors, among others, which a justice or
judge shall consider in determining whether to grant a continuance under subparagraph (f) of Section
10 of this Act are as follows:

(a) Whether the failure to grant such a continuance in the proceeding would be likely to make a
continuation of such proceeding impossible, or result in a miscarriage of justice.

(b) Whether the case taken as a whole is so novel, so unusual and so complex, due to the
number of accused or the nature of the prosecution or otherwise, that it is unreasonable to
expect adequate preparation within the periods of time established by this Act.

No continuance under subparagraph (f) of Section 10 shall be granted because of general congestion
of the court's calendar, or lack of diligent preparation or failure to obtain available witnesses on the
part of the public prosecutor.

Section 12. Public Attorney's Duties Where Accused is Imprisoned. - If the public attorney knows
that a person charged of a crime is preventively detained, either because he/she is charged of a
bailable crime and has no means to post bail, or is charged of a non-bailable crime, or is serving a
term of imprisonment in any penal institution, the public attorney shall promptly:

(a) Undertake to obtain the presence of the prisoner for trial, or cause a notice to be served on
the person having custody of the prisoner mandating such person to so advise the prisoner of
his/her right to demand trial.

(b) Upon receipt of a notice, the person having custody of the prisoner shall promptly advise
the prisoner of the charge and of his/her right to demand trial. If at any time thereafter the
prisoner informs the person having custody that he/she demands trial, such person shall cause
notice to that effect to be sent promptly to the public attorney.

(c) Upon receipt of such notice, the public attorney shall promptly seek to obtain the presence
of the prisoner for trial.

(d) When the person having custody of the prisoner receives from the public attorney a
properly supported request for temporary custody of the prisoner for trial, the prisoner shall be
made available to that public attorney.

Section 13. Remedy Where Accused is Not Brought to Trial Within the Time Limit. - If an
accused is not brought to trial within the time limit required by Section 7 of this Act as extended by
Section 9, the information shall be dismissed on motion of the accused. The accused shall have the
burden of proof of supporting such motion but the prosecution shall have the burden of going forward
with the evidence in connection with the exclusion of time under Section 10 of this Act.

In determining whether to dismiss the case with or without prejudice, the court shall consider, among
other factors, the seriousness of the offense, the facts and circumstances of the case which led to the
dismissal, and the impact of a reprosecution on the implementation of this Act and on the
administration of justice. Failure of the accused to move for dismissal prior to trial or entry of a plea of
guilty shall constitute a waiver of the right to dismissal under this section.

Section 14. Sanctions. - In any case in which counsel for the accused, the public prosecution or
public attorney:

(a) knowingly allows the case to be set for trial without disclosing the fact that a necessary
witness would be unavailable for trial;

(b) files a motion solely for the purpose of delay which he/she knows is totally frivolous and
without merit;

(c) makes a statement for the purpose of obtaining continuance which he/she knows to be
false and which is material to the granting of a continuance; or
(d) otherwise willfully fails to proceed to trial without justification consistent with the provisions
of this Act, the court may, without prejudice to any appropriate criminal and/or administrative
charges to be instituted by the proper party against the erring counsel if and when warranted,
punish any such counsel or attorney, as follows:

(1) in the case of a counsel privately retained in connection with the defense of an
accused, by imposing a fine not exceeding; fifty percent (50%) of the compensation to
which he/she is entitled in connection with his/her defense of the accused;

(2) by imposing on any appointed counsel de officio or public prosecutor a fine not
exceeding Ten thousand pesos (10,000.00); and

(3) by denying any defense counsel or public prosecutor the right to practice before the
court considering the case for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days.

The authority to punish provided for by this section shall be in addition to any other authority or
power available to the court. The court shall follow the procedures established in the Rules of
Court in punishing any counsel or public prosecutor pursuant to this section.

Section 15. Rules and Regulations. - The Supreme Court shall promulgate rules, regulations,
administrative orders and circulars which shall seek to accelerate the disposition of criminal cases.
The rules, regulations, administrative orders and circulars formulated shall provide sanctions against
justices and judges who willfully fail to proceed to trial without justification consistent with the
provisions of this Act.

Section 16. Funding. - For the effective implementation of the rules, regulations, administrative
orders and circulars promulgated under this Act, the amount of Twenty million pesos
(P20,000,000.00) annually shall be appropriated from the allocation of the Supreme Court under the
General Appropriations Act. Thereafter, such additional amounts as may be necessary for its
continued implementation shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Section 17. Act Not a Bar to Speedy Trial Claim Under the Constitution. - No provision of this Act
shall be interpreted as a bar to any claim of denial of speedy trial as required by Article III, Section
14(2) of the 1987 Constitution.

Section 18. Repealing Clause. - All laws, presidential decrees, executive orders, rules and
regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or
modified accordingly.

Section 19. Separability Clause. - In case any provision of this Act is declared unconstitutional, the
other provisions shall remain in effect.

Section 20. Effectivity. - This Act shall take effect after fifteen (15) days following its publication in
the Official Gazette or in any newspaper of general circulation: Provided, That Section 7 of this Act
shall become effective after the expiration of the aforementioned third-calendar-month period
provided in Section 9 of this Act.

Approved: February 12, 1998

A.M. No. 12-11-2-SC Guidelines for Decongesting Holding Jails by Enforcing the Rights of the
Accused Persons to Bail and to Speedy Trial (sep pdf)

SECTION 2. Plea of Guilty to a Lesser Offense.

[G.R. No. 175195 : September 15, 2010]

VIRGILIO BUG-ATAN, BERME LABANDERO GREGORIO MANATAD PETITIONERS,


VS. THE PEOPLE OF PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

DECISION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:

The testimony of a co-conspirator is not sufficient for the conviction of the accused
unless such testimony is supported by other evidence. As an exception, however, the
testimony of a co-conspirator, even if uncorroborated, will be considered sufficient if
given in a straightforward manner and contains details which could not have been the
result of deliberate afterthought.[1]

This petition for review on certiorari[2] assails the Decision[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA)
dated May 25, 2006 which upheld the Judgment[4] dated September 20, 1994 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 28, Mandaue City finding petitioners guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of homicide.

For the death of Pastor Papauran (victim) on April 15, 1993, Norman Maramara
(Maramara) was indicted for murder.[5] After pleading not guilty but before his trial,
Maramara moved and was allowed by the trial court to enter into a plea bargaining with
the prosecution and the victim's next of kin. Accordingly, Maramara, upon re-
arraignment, pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of homicide, a crime necessarily included
in the charge of murder.[6] It would appear, however, that before he was indicted or
thereabout, Maramara executed an extrajudicial confession[7] wherein he admitted
shooting the victim to death and implicated as his co-conspirators herein petitioners
Gregorio Manatad (Manatad), Virgilio Bug-atan (Bug-atari) and Bernie Labandero
(Labandero).

Based on the account of Maramara, petitioners were accordingly charged with murder in
an Information dated August 25, 1993, the accusatory portion of which reads:

The State accuses GREGORIO MANATAD, VIRGILIO BUG-ATAN and BERNIE LABANDERO
of MURDER, committed as follows:

That on or about the 15th day of April 1993, in the City of Mandaue, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the aforenamed accused in conspiracy
with NORMAN MARAMARA whose information for murder was filed on June 9,1993,
docketed as Criminal Case No. DU-3721 who was convicted on July 19, 1993, and with
others who shall be prosecuted separately once sufficient and/or corroborative evidence
are gathered and secured, and proper preliminary investigation is conducted thereon,
with deliberate intent to kill and with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously conspire, confederate and help one another in
inducing and causing die said NORMAN MARAMARA to attack, assault and shoot Pastor
Papauran with a handgun, thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal wound at his vital
portion which caused his death soon thereafter,

CONTRARY TO LAW.[8]

Petitioners, when arraigned, pleaded not guilty. Thereafter, trial ensued.

Factual Antecedents

The CA, in its assailed Decision, chronicled the facts in this sequence:

On April 14, 1993, at around 12:00 o'clock noon, accused-appellants Manatad and Bug-
atan arrived at La Paloma, Labangon, Cebu City to meet with Maramara [whom] they
instructed x x x to go to Mandaue City and kill Pastor Papauran. Accused-appellants
Bug-atan and Manatad gave Maramara a .38 caliber revolver with three reserve[d]
bullets and P500.00 for transportation money. The sum of P30,000.00 was also offered
to Maramara as part of the considerations for his killing Pastor Papauran, together with a
promise that accused-appellant Bug-atan would move for the dismissal of Criminal Case
No. CBU-24099, a case for murder filed against Maramara which was pending before the
sala of then Judge Portia Hormachuelos.

Sometime in the morning of April 15, 1993, Maramara met with accused- appellants
Bug-atan and Labandero at Labangon, Cebu City. Thereafter, Maramara and accused-
appellant Labandero boarded a passenger jeepney and proceeded to Mandaue City to
carry out the task of killing Pastor Papauran. Accused-appellant Bug-atan, on the other
hand, road [sic] Ms motorcycle to Labogon, Mandaue City and waited in the comer
outside Pastor Papauran's house to act as back-up. Maramara and accused-appellant
Labandero arrived at Labogon and proceeded to the house of Pastor
Papauran. Maramara shot Pastor Papauran once in the head and then he and accused-
appellant Labandero walked away and ran towards the highway. They boarded a
passenger jeepney towards Consolacion. Three days later, accused-appellant Bug-atan
and Maramara went to Labogon on a motorcycle to confirm if Pastor Papauran was really
dead. When they saw that Pastor Papauran was already dead, accused-appellant Bug-
atan told Maramara to keep silent about the killing and that he would pay the latter on
April 21, 1999.[9] However, Maramara was already arrested by the police on April
21,1999.[10]

Petitioners denied the accusation against them. They respectively interposed the
defense of denial and alibi and ascribed ill-motive on prosecution principal witness
Maramara. Thus:

xxx. In denying criminal liability, accused-appellant Manatad interposed the defense of


alibi. He testified that, on April 11 to 15, 1993 he was allegedly in Luyag, San Remegio
and Tigbawan, Labuelan, all places located in the province of Cebu. The accused-
appellant Labandero declared that he was an eye-witness for the State in the case of
"People v. Nicolas Yolen and Norman Maramara, Criminal Case No. CBU-24099," and
accordingly, after testifying against Maramara, he immediately left for Manila since he
had received death threats that he would be the next to be killed. Thus, accused-
appellant Labandero claims that he was in Manila at the time of the killing of Pastor
Papauran and that the extrajudicial confession and testimony of Maramara is false,
fabricated and was concocted by the latter as a means of revenge. Accused-appellant
Bug-atan, on the other hand, simply denied having participated in the commission of the
offense charged.[11]

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

The trial court accorded full faith and credence to the testimonies of the prosecution
witnesses particularly that of Maramara and found the existence of conspiracy among
the petitioners in the commission of the crime. It rejected their alibi holding that the
same is self-serving and uncorroborated. Thus, on September 20,1994, judgment was
rendered against the petitioners:

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the


accused, Gregorio Manatad, Virgilio Bug-atan and Bernie Labandero guilty beyond
reasonable doubt for the crime of Homicide, the said accused are hereby [each
sentenced] to undergo an indeterminate penalty [of] imprisonment of Eight (8) Years,
One (1) Day of Prision Mayor as minimum to Fourteen (14) Years, Eight (8) Months and
One (1) Day of Reclusion Temporal as Maximum with the accessories of the law and to
indemnify jointly and severally the legal heirs of Pastor Papauran in the amount of
P50.000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay their
proportionate share of the cost.

All accused being detention prisoners shall be credited in the service of their respective
sentences full time during which they have undergone preventive imprisonment.

SO ORDERED.[12]
Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On appeal, the CA affirmed the trial court's Decision. Like the trial court, the appellate
court found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses credible and sustained the trial
court's finding of conspiracy. It noted that petitioners' identities were duly established
by Maramara's positive identification and, thus, disregarded petitioners' denial and
alibi. On May 25, 2006, the appellate court disposed the appeal:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us


DISMISSING the appeal filed in this case and AFFIRMING the Decision dated September
20, 1994 of the RTC in Mandaue City in Criminal CaseNo.DU-3938.

SO ORDERED.[13]

The appellate court, in the challenged October 4, 2006 Resolution[14] denied petitioners'
Motion for Reconsideration prompting the latter to institute before this Court the instant
Petition for Review on Certiorari. We note that petitioners did not enumerate any
specific assignment of errors but instead presented arguments on procedural and
substantive matters.

Issues

As we gleaned from the arguments of the petitioners, the main issues formulated
thereon for resolution are: (1) whether Maramara is a credible witness; (2) whether
conspiracy was proven;"and, (3) whether the guilt of petitioners was proven beyond
reasonable doubt. But before dwelling on these matters, we opted to tackle an issue
brought beforehand by petitioners concerning a procedural point. Though it is our
opinion that the discussion on this point is not relevant in the resolution of the guilt or
innocence of petitioners, we still find it necessary to determine what crime was actually
committed and its corresponding penalty.

Our Ruling

Preliminarily, petitioners are challenging, on procedural standpoint, the manner in which


the proceeding in Criminal Case No. DU-3721 entitled People v. Norman Maramara was
conducted. They point out that after Maramara was arraigned in the morning of July
19, 1993, the trial court hastily heard and approved a plea bargain motion in the
afternoon leading to his immediate conviction on the same day. They also fault the trial
court in concluding that there were no aggravating or mitigating circumstances to
appreciate despite Maramara's confession to the murder of the victim. They likewise
question why the filing of Criminal Case Nos. DU-3721 and DU-3938[15] was done
separately and not simultaneously. According to petitioners, the conviction of Maramara
in Criminal Case No. DU-3721 was precipitately done following a skewed procedure.

We disagree. We find no legal flaw in the assailed actions of the trial court in Criminal
Case No. DU-3721.

At the outset, it is easily discemable that petitioners failed to point out any rule of
procedure or provision of law that was transgressed by the trial court. On the contrary,
the plea bargain was validly acted upon despite the fact that all the
proceedings, i.e. arraignment, plea bargaining and conviction, occurred on a single
day. Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, which authorizes plea bargain for a
lesser offense in a criminal case, is explicit on how and when a plea bargain may be
allowed. The rule pertinently provides:

Sec. 2. Plea of guilty to lesser offense. - At arraignment, the accused, with the consent
of the offended party and the prosecutor, may be allowed by the trial court to plead
guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily included in the offense charged. After
arraignment but before trial, the accused may still be allowed to plead guilty to said
lesser offense after withdrawing his plea of not guilty. No amendment of the complaint
or information is necessary.

As clearly worded, there is nothing in the law which expressly or impliedly prohibits the
trial court from allowing an accused to change his plea, on a plea bargain, immediately
after a previous plea of not guilty. In approving the plea bargaining agreement, the trial
court undoubtedly took into consideration the timeliness of the plea bargaining and its
compliance with the requirements of the law.

Neither do we see any error in the trial court's holding that there were no aggravating or
mitigating circumstances to appreciate even with Maramara's confession of murder for
the obvious reason that introduction of evidence became no longer necessary after
entering a plea of guilty.

Respecting the non-simultaneous filing of Criminal Case Nos. DU-3721 and DU-3938,
suffice it to say that at the time Maramara pleaded guilty, the present charge against
petitioners was still in the initial stage of preliminary investigation.

We now proceed to the substantive arguments raised in the petition.

Evaluation of the witnesses' credibility


is a matter best left to the trial court.

Indubitably, the credibility of the testimony of prosecution's prime witness Maramara is


the meat of the instant controversy. Petitioners postulate that he is not a credible
witness. They point out that there were inconsistencies in his testimonies vis-a-vis his
confession, and that his declarations should be totally rejected considering his
questionable reputation and personal background as evidenced by his previous
conviction. Being a confessed conspirator, his testimony was procured from a polluted
source. Moreover, he had the ill-motive of revenge against Labandero and Bug-atan
considering that Labandero was a witness against Maramara in the killing of Lanogan
while Bug-atan was responsible for his arrest on April 21, 1993.

We are not convinced.

Petitioners try to discredit Maramara by highlighting his alleged inconsistent statements


in his extrajudicial confession and his testimony in court, i.e., he allegedly averred in his
confession that Manatad and Bug-atan went to see him on April 9, 1993 whereas in his
direct examination, he merely stated that there was only one person who went to
him. Petitioners also invite our attention to the variance regarding the place where the
meeting was held, whether it was at the house of Maramara's aunt or at the pier.

These perceived inconsistencies provide no persuasive reason for us to distrust the


credibility of Maramara. They refer to minor details and not to the central fact of the
crime. They are too trivial to affect his straightforward account of the killing of the
victim and the complicity of the petitioners. It is settled that inconsistencies relating to
minor details do not affect the creditworthiness of the witness testifying and that minor
inconsistencies tend to show that the witnesses were not coached or rehearsed. This is
a well- settled doctrine which need not require much documentation. The testimony of a
witness must be considered in its entirety instead of in truncated parts. The technique in
deciphering a testimony is not to consider only its isolated parts and anchor a conclusion
on the basis of said parts.[16] At any rate, Maramara had adequately explained and
properly corrected himself regarding these alleged inconsistencies during his
examination in court.[17]

Maramara's previous conviction neither detracts his competency as a witness nor


necessarily renders his testimony totally untrustworthy and inadmissible. While
Maramara admitted to having been previously convicted in Criminal Case No. DU-3721,
this circumstance does not necessarily make him or his testimony ipso
facto incredible. The determination of the character of a witness is not a prerequisite to
belief in his testimony.[18] His alleged bad reputation, even if true, should not sway the
court in the evaluation of the veracity of his testimony. Other important factors should
be considered in determining the inherent probability of his statements for a convicted
person is not necessarily a liar. After all, conviction of a crime, unless otherwise
provided by law, shall not be a ground for disqualification of witnesses.[19] More
importantly, the testimony of Maramara who undeniably pleaded guilty in killing the
victim should definitely be given more weight inasmuch as his testimony pertains in not
insignificant points to the specific incident. It is to be noted that Dr. Crisostomo Abbu,
the medical officer who conducted the post- mortem examination on the body of the
victim, provided collaborating testimony regarding the location of the inflicted wound,
thereby rendering more credible the testimonial account of Maramara. In fine, we defer
to the trial court's finding, sustained by the appellate court, giving full weight and credit
to Maramara's testimony. The trial court's findings regarding the witness's credibility
are accorded the highest degree of respect.[20]

The Court finds the supposed enmity of Maramara not sufficient reason to impel him to
implicate petitioners in the killing of the victim. While it may be conceded that
Labandero was a witness against Maramara in a murder case while Bug-atan was
instrumental in Maramara's arrest, still, the defense was unable to conclusively establish
that Maramara was ill-motivated in denouncing petitioners as his co-conspirators in the
commission of the crime. There is no proof that Maramara had the intention to pervert
the truth and prevaricate just to implicate petitioners in so serious a crime as
murder. In fact, the trial court did not perceive such improper motivation on his
part. All that petitioners had are pure speculation and afterthought. The absence of
evidence of improper motive tends to indicate that a witness's testimony is worthy of full
faith and credence.[21]

We see no reason to deviate from the trial court's keen observation that the credibility of
Maramara as witness has remained intact notwithstanding the attempts of the defense
to demolish it. Hence, his testimony should be given full weight and credit. We likewise
agree with the appellate court in holding that the trial court did not err in appreciating
the testimony of Maramara since it was corroborated by the testimonies of other
witnesses and was given unhesitatingly in a straightforward manner and full of details
which could not have been the result of deliberate afterthought. His testimony is too
rich in details brought out during his examination in court which cannot simply be swept
aside as mere fabrication. The declarations of the other prosecution witnesses,
individually considered, may have been circumstantial and lacking in full details. But
their combined testimonies somehow supplement in no small measure the testimonial
account of Maramara. As we and the courts below cautiously determined, they
strengthen the prosecution's evidence not only with respect to the fact of killing but also
on the conspiracy angle of the case.

Conspiracy was duly proven.

Like the courts below, we are equally convinced that there is sufficient evidence of
conspiracy as convincing as the evidence of the participation of each of the
petitioners. The records teem with circumstances correctly outlined by the trial court
clearly indicating the collective and individual acts of the petitioners which reveal their
common purpose to assault and liquidate the victim. For emphasis, we need to quote a
portion of the ratiocination of the appellate court in this regard:

In the case at bench, as categorically attested to by witness Maramara. accused-


appellants asked him to kill Pastor Papauran in exchange for money and dropping an
earlier case, Criminal Case No. 24099, filed against him. They also accompanied him on
the day of the shooting to see to it that the job was done. The concerted acts of
accused-appellants reveal a consciously adopted plan and clearly demonstrate their joint
design to exterminate Pastor Papauran. Conspiracy having been established, the act of
one is the act of all.[22]

Needless to stress, these circumstances are clear enough to show that petitioners acted
in concert in the implementation of a common objective - to kill the victim. In
conspiracy, proof of the agreement need not rest on direct evidence. Conspiracy may be
deduced from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the
crime which indubitably point to and are indicative of a joint purpose, concert of action
and community of interest.[23] To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every
detail of the execution nor talce part in every act and may not even know the exact part
to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy.[24] But once conspiracy
is shown, as in this case, the act of one is the act of all.

Defense of alibi and denial


was correctly rejected.

For alibi to prevail, the established doctrine is that the accused must prove not only that
he was at some other place at the time of the commission of the crime but also that it
was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis or within its immediate
vicinity.[25] Physical impossibility means that the accused was at such other place for
such a length of time that it was impossible for him to have been at the crime scene
either before or after the time he was at such other place.[26]

Manatad's alibi is that from April 11 to 15, 1993, he was in Cuyang, San Remigio and
Tigbawan, Tabuelan, doing faith healing. His alibi, assuming it to be true, cannot be
given merit. He could have easily been at the scene of the crime at the time of its
commission considering that San Remigio and Tabuelan are municipalities located in the
province of Cebu. His presence therein did not, therefore, render impossible his being at
the scene of the killing at Labogon, Mandaue City, a place also located in the province of
Cebu.

To corroborate his exculpatory tale, Manatad presented, among others, Patrocino Vaflor
and Rafaela Maglinte to support his alleged alibi. However, these witnesses were shown
to be biased since they have the tendency to falsely testify in Manatad's favor for they
admittedly owed him a great debt of gratitude.[27]

For his part, Labandero posits that he was in Manila at the time of the incident because
of a previous death threat on him after giving his testimony in Criminal Case No. 24099
such that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis. Considering
that his alibi and supposed death threat were uncorroborated and unsubstantiated by
clear and convincing evidence, the Court finds the same self-serving and deserving of no
weight in law. Moreover, the fact that he has no derogatory record will not affect the
outcome of his case since it does not disprove his complicity in the commission of the
offense.

Respecting the denial of Bug-atan, suffice it to state that a mere denial constitutes
negative evidence and warrants the least credibility or none at all. Absent any strong
evidence of non-culpability, a denial crumbles in the face of positive declarations.[28]

In fine, petitioners failed to rebut the prosecution's evidence and their defense of alibi
and denial must be rejected.

The foregoing notwithstanding, this Court has perused the lengthy discussion of the trial
court and the assailed Decision of the appellate court.

Prosecution's evidence sufficiently


established the presence of treachery
and evident premeditation.
Treachery qualifies the crime to murder. There is treachery when the offender commits
any of the crimes against persons, employing means, method or forms which tend
directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from
the defense that the offended party might make.[29] The essence of treachery is the
sudden and unexpected attack by an aggressor on the unsuspecting victim depriving the
latter of any chance to defend himself and thereby ensuring its commission without risk
to himself.[30]

In the present case, the presence of the qualifying circumstance of treachery was
indubitably established. The attack on the unarmed victim was so sudden, unexpected,
without preliminaries and provocation. The victim was totally unprepared and oblivious
of the attack since he was peacefully resting inside his house. The single shot found its
mark at the back portion of his head indicating that he was shot from behind with his
back turned to the assailant. This position was disadvantageous to the victim since he
was not in a position to defend himself or to retaliate. Moreover, the location of the
wound obviously indicates that the assailant deliberately and consciously aimed for the
vital part of the victim's body to ensure the commission of the crime. The attack from
the rear is treacherous. As has been held many times, treachery exists since the
defenseless victim was shot from behind. The fact that Bug-atan furnished the deadly
weapon used in the shooting eloquently shows that they made a deliberate and
conscious adoption of the means to kill the victim. These facts, established by evidence
on record, clearly constitute treachery as defined in Article 14(16) of the Revised Penal
Code.

Before evident premeditation may be appreciated, the following elements must be


proved: a) the time when the accused determined to commit the crime; b) an act
manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination; and, c) sufficient
lapse of time between the determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the
consequences of his act.

The foregoing requisites were fulfilled. First, it was on April 14, 1993 when Manatad and
Bug-atan gave Maramara a .38 caliber revolver and P500.00 as expenses for
transportation, instructing the latter to proceed to Mandaue City and kill the
victim. Undisputedly, these presuppose planning. Second, the execution of the crime
was done the following morning of April 15, 1993 where Bug-atan and Labandero
accompanied Maramara to the house of the victim. Third, the more than one day
period, at the very least, was substantial interval of time clearly sufficient to afford a full
opportunity for meditation and reflection upon the consequences of their nefarious
acts. These proved their premeditated design to end the life of the victim which was
accomplished.

Crime committed and proper penalty

While the Decision of the trial court recognized the guilt of the petitioners for the offense
as charged to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt, the trial court went on to
hold them guilty to a lesser offense of homicide citing the Court's ruling in People v.
Tapalla.[31] In said case, this Court declared that if the prosecution accepts from any of
the defendants charged with conspiracy in the commission of a crime, a plea of guilty to
a lesser offense included in the one alleged in the information, such acceptance will
benefit his co-defendants. In arriving at this conclusion, the trial court was of the
impression that Maramara's plea of guilty to a lesser offense of homicide in Criminal
Case No. DU-3721 should benefit the petitioners in this case.

The case of Tapalla,[32] invoked by the trial court as authority in arriving at such
conclusion, is not applicable in the present case. The information in Criminal Case No.
DU-3721 indicting Maramara alone of murder is distinct and separate from the
information charging petitioners for the same offense in the instant case. Moreover,
Maramara was neither charged as co-accused of petitioners nor of conspiring to commit
a crime in either case. As correctly observed by the trial court, Maramara was only a
principal witness in this case[33] though admittedly a conspirator in the commission of
the crime. These circumstances provide a distinction from the Tapalla case where the
accused Tingzon, who pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of homicide, was a co-
accused in the same information charging him along with others of conspiring to commit
murder. We therefore cannot agree with the trial court's conclusion drawn from the
principle laid down in the Tapalla case and neither can we give imprimatur on the
appellate court's affirmation thereof. The basis thus used is, in our opinion, wrong.

As the evidence stands, the crime committed by petitioners is murder in view of the
attending circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation. Murder, as defined
under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code is the unlawful lolling of a person which is
not parricide or infanticide, provided that treachery or evident premeditation, inter alia,
attended the lulling. The presence of any one of the enumerated circumstances under
Article 248 is enough to qualify a killing as murder punishable by reclusion perpetua to
death. When more than one qualifying circumstance is proven, as in this case, the rule
is that the other must be considered as generic aggravating.[34] In the present case, the
qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation will be considered as a generic
aggravating circumstance warranting the imposition of the penalty of death in the
absence of any mitigating circumstance.[35] Since the imposition of the death penalty
has been prohibited by Republic Act No. 9346,[36] a law favorable to petitioners which
took effect on June 24, 2006, the penalty that should be imposed on petitioners is
reduced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. Sections 2 and 3 of the Act
provide:

Section 2. In lieu of the death penalty, the following shall be imposed:

a) The penalty of reclusion perpetua, when the law violated makes use of the
nomenclature of the penalties, of the Revised Penal Code;

xxxx

Section 3. Person convicted of offenses punishable with reclusion perpetua or whose


sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua by reason of this Act, shall not be
eligible for parole under Act No. 4103 otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence
Law, as amended.

Civil Liability

When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be recovered: (1) civil
indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages;
(3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; (5) attorney's fees and expenses of
litigation; and, (6) interest, in proper cases.[37]

The Decision of the trial couit as affirmed by the appellate court only awarded
P50,000.00 to the legal heirs of the victim without stating the nature of this grant. As
held in People v. Zamorqga, [38] civil indemnity and moral damages, being based on
differen jural foundations are separate and distinct from each other. Thus, it becomes
imperative for this Court to rectify the error and award additional damages following
precedents.

In line with prevailing jurisprudence, we award the fixed amount of P75,000.00 for the
death of the victim[39] as civil indemnity ex delicto without any need of proof other than
the commission of the crime. An award of moral damages is also in order even though
the prosecution did not present any proof of the heirs' emotional suffering apart from
the fact of death of the victim, since the emotional wounds from the vicious killing of the
victim cannot be denied.[40] The award of P75,000.00 is proper pursuant to established
jurisprudence.
Although the prosecution presented evidence that the heirs had incurred actual
expenses, no receipts were presented in the trial court. An award of temperate
damages in lieu of actual damages in the amount of P25,000.00 to the heirs of the
victim is warranted because it is reasonable to presume that when death occurs, the
family of the victim suffered pecuniary loss for the wake and funeral of the victim
although the exact amount was not proved.[41]

In addition, exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00 should be awarded


considering the attendance of the aggravating circumstance of treachery that qualified
the killing to murder and evident premeditation which served as generic aggravating
circumstance. Exemplary damages are awarded when treachery attended the
commission of the crime.[42]

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment


is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. Petitioners Gregorio Manatad, Virgilio Bug-
atan and Bernie Labandero are found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of murder, not
homicide, qualified by treachery, and sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua without
eligibility for parole.

Petitioners are ORDERED to pay the heirs of victim Pastor Papauran the amounts of
P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate
damages and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Corona, C.J., (Chairperson), Carpio Morales*, Velasco, Jr., and Perez,


JJ., concur.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. NO. 122619, August 18, 2006

HEIRS OF MARIO GEVERO, REPRESENTED BY IRISH GEVERO, PETITIONERS, VS.


GUIHING AGRICULTURAL & DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

For our resolution is the herein petition for review on certiorari assailing the Decision[1] of the Court of
Appeals dated October 13, 1995 in CA-G.R. SP No. 37408.

Juanito M, Nava is an employee of Guihing Agricultural & Development Corporation (GADECO). At


around 5:30 p.m. of April 1, 1990, a Sunday, he was driving a motorcycle, issued to him by GADECO,
along Quezon Avenue, Digos, Davao del Sur. Riding with him was his wife, Avelina Canseco-Nava. Along
the way, Nava's motorcycle bumped the bicycle Mario Gevero was riding on. As a result of the collision,
the latter died.

Subsequently, Nava was charged with Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide in an Information filed
with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Digos, Davao del Sur, docketed as Criminal Case No. 235 (90).
Before his arraignment, he manifested his intent to enter a plea of guilty to a lesser offense of reckless
imprudence resulting in damage to property, defined and penalized under Article 365 of the Revised Penal
Code. Irish Gevero, wife of the late Mario Gevero, and their children consented to the plea of guilty to a
lesser offense by Nava.

On December 28, 1990, the trial court issued an Order[2] finding accused Nava guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the lesser offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property and ordering him to pay
a fine of P200.00.

During the separate hearing of the civil aspect of Criminal Case No. 235 (90), Irish Gevero testified that at
the time of the death of her husband, he was thirty (30) years old, earning P6,000.00 a month as a T-shirt
designer and P2,000.00 as a "freelance" worker. She incurred P153,222.15 for medical, hospitalization, and
burial expenses.[3] Significantly, the accused did not object to the prosecution's formal offer of these
evidence.

On November 12, 1991, the trial court rendered its Decision,[4] the dispositive portion of which reads:
In view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the complainant and against the accused,
ordering the latter to indemnify the offended party the amount of P153,222.15 for medical, hospitalization,
and burial expenses; and to pay P8,000.00 for loss of earnings in the concept of actual or compensatory
damages; P200,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as attorney's fees; P500.00 per court appearance
as may be shown on record; and costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.
Eventually, the writ of execution was issued by the trial court. However, it was returned by the sheriff
unsatisfied since accused Nava was insolvent. Upon motion of Irish Gevero and her children, the trial
court issued a writ of execution against GADECO, employer of Nava. Hence, its bank deposit of
P157,044.75 was garnished and turned over by the sheriff to Irish Gevero.

GADECO filed a motion to quash the writ of execution and for the return of its money. However, the
trial court issued an Order[5] dated December 26, 1994 denying GADECO's motion.

As the full amount of the award was not satisfied, the heirs of Mario Gevero filed a motion for the
issuance of an alias writ of execution against GADECO. This was granted by the trial court.

Meanwhile, GADECO filed an urgent omnibus motion to hold in abeyance further execution of the
Decision and to reconsider the Order dated December 26, 1994. Again in its Order dated January 16, 1995,
the trial court denied this motion, prompting GADECO to file with the Court of Appeals a petition for
certiorari,[6] docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 37408. GADECO alleged therein that the appellate court, in
issuing the Order dated December 26, 1994 denying GADECO's motion to quash the writ of execution
and Order dated January 16, 1995 denying its omnibus motion, acted with grave abuse of discretion.

On October 13, 1995, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision setting aside the challenged Orders of
the trial court and ordering the heirs of Mario Gevero to return to GADECO the amount of P157,044.75.

Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari by the heirs (wife and children) of Mario Gevero.

Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that the civil liability of respondent
GADECO is only P200.00, the damage caused to the bicycle of the late Mario Gevero, thus obliterating
the fact of his death.

Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code reads:


ART. 100. Civil liability of a person guilty of felony. Every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly
liable.
The Court of Appeals, in applying the above provision, ruled that the civil liability of accused Nava should
be for the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced, i.e., reckless imprudence resulting in damage
to property. Pursuant to Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code on criminal negligence,[7] the appellate
court imposed upon the accused only a fine of P200.00, the damage caused to the victim's bicycle.

Section 2, Rule 116 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, provides:
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 charged, or is cognizable by a court of lesser jurisdiction than the trial
court. No amendment of the complaint of information is necessary.
A conviction under this plea shall be equivalent to a conviction of the offense charged for purposes of
double jeopardy.
It is clear from the Rule that an accused in a criminal case may be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser
offense, regardless of whether it is included or not in the crime charged. Thus, pursuant to this Rule, Nava,
who was charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, was allowed by the trial court to plead
guilty to the lesser offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property.

The Court of Appeals, however, in limiting Nava's civil liability to the cost of the damage to the bicycle,
clearly ignored the fact of death of the victim. The offense of reckless imprudence resulting in
homicide necessarily produces death; the offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property
does not. Obviously, the fact of death of the victim cannot be reconciled with the accused's plea of guilty
to the lesser offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property.

Significantly, Section 2, Rule 116 is silent on the effect of the plea to a lesser offense on the civil liability of
the accused. On this point, this Court's ruling in Amaton v. Anjero[8] is relevant, thus:
However, the law is not entirely bereft of solutions in such cases. In instances where a literal application of
a provision of law would lead to injustice or to a result so directly in opposition which the dictates of logic
and everyday common sense as to be unconscionable, the Civil Code admonishes judges to take principles
of right and justice at heart. In case of doubt, the intent is to promote right and justice. Fiat justicia ruat
coelum. Stated differently, when a provision of law is silent or ambiguous, judges ought to invoke a solution
responsive to the vehement urge of conscience.

These are fundamental tenets of law. In the case at bench, the fact of the victim's death, a clear negation of
frustrated or attempted homicide, ought to have alerted the judge not only to a possibly inconsistent result
but to an injustice. The failure to recognize such principles so cardinal to our body of laws amounts to
ignorance of the law and reflects respondent judge's lack of prudence, if not competence, in the
performance of his duties. While it is true, as respondent judge contends, that he merely applied the rule to
the letter, the palpably incongruous result ought to have been a "red flag" alerting him of the possibility of
injustice. The death of an identified individual, the gravamen of the charge against the defendant in the
criminal case, cannot and should not be ignored in favor of a mere expedient plea of either attempted or
frustrated homicide. We have held before that if the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one
does not know it, constitutes gross ignorance of law.
Indeed, the Court of Appeals should have realized outright that a grave injustice will be committed against
the heirs of the victim if the accused will only be fined P200.00 corresponding to the cost of damage to the
victim's bicycle, without awarding his heirs civil liabilities corresponding to the fact of his death. Common
sense dictates that the civil liability arising from the death of a person cannot be pegged to the cost of
damage to a bicycle.

Moreover, to hold otherwise would lead to the possibility that offended parties will hesitate to give their
consent to a plea of guilty to a lesser offense by the accused for fear that it would foreclose their chance to
recover the appropriate civil liability.

In fine, we hold that the civil liability of the accused for the death of Mario Gevero awarded by the trial
court to his heirs is in order.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. The challenged Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
SP No. 37408 is REVERSED. The Orders of the trial court dated December 26, 1994 and January 16,
1995 in Criminal Case No. 235 (90) are REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairperson), Corona, and Garcia, JJ., concur.


Azcuna, J., on official leave.

SECTION 3. Plea of Guilty to Capital Offense; Reception of Evidence.

THIRD DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 188314


Plaintiff-Appellee,

- versus

KHADDAFY JANJALANI,
GAMAL B. BAHARAN a.k.a. Present:
Tapay, ANGELO TRINIDAD
a.k.a. Abu Khalil, GAPPAL CARPIO MORALES, J.,
BANNAH ASALI a.k.a. Maidan or Chairperson,
Negro, JAINAL SALI a.k.a. Abu BRION,
Solaiman, ROHMAT BERSAMIN,
ABDURROHIM a.k.a. Jackie or VILLARAMA, JR., and
Zaky, and other JOHN and JANE SERENO, JJ.
DOES,
Accused,

GAMAL B. BAHARAN a.k.a.


Tapay, ANGELO TRINIDAD Promulgated:
a.k.a. Abu Khalil, and ROHMAT
ABDURROHIM a.k.a. Abu Jackie January 10, 2011
or Zaky,
Accused-Appellants.

x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
SERENO, J.:

Before the Court is an appeal from the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated 30
June 2008, which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City in Criminal
Case Nos. 05-476 and 05-4777 dated 18 October 2005. The latter Decision convicted the three
accused-appellants namely, Gamal B. Baharan a.k.a. Tapay, Angelo Trinidad a.k.a. Abu Khalil,
and Rohmat Abdurrohim a.k.a. Abu Jackie or Zaky of the complex crime of multiple murder and
multiple frustrated murder, and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection.
The CA modified the sentence to reclusion perpetua as required by Republic Act No. 9346 (Act
Abolishing the Imposition of Death Penalty).

Statement of Facts

The pertinent facts, as determined by the trial court, are as follows:

On 14 February 2005, an RRCG bus was plying its usual southbound route, from its
Navotas bus terminal towards its Alabang bus terminal via Epifanio de los Santos Avenue
(EDSA). Around 6:30 to 7:30 in the evening, while they were about to move out of the
Guadalupe-EDSA southbound bus stop, the bus conductor noticed two men running after the bus.
The two insisted on getting on the bus, so the conductor obliged and let them in.

According to Elmer Andales, the bus conductor, he immediately became wary of the two
men, because, even if they got on the bus together, the two sat away from each other one sat two
seats behind the driver, while the other sat at the back of the bus. At the time, there were only 15
passengers inside the bus. He also noticed that the eyes of one of the men were reddish. When he
approached the person near the driver and asked him whether he was paying for two passengers,
the latter looked dumb struck by the question. He then stuttered and said he was paying for two
and gave PhP20. Andales grew more concerned when the other man seated at the back also paid
for both passengers. At this point, Andales said he became more certain that the two were up to
no good, and that there might be a holdup.

Afterwards, Andales said he became more suspicious because both men kept on asking
him if the bus was going to stop at Ayala Avenue. The witness also noticed that the man at the
back appeared to be slouching, with his legs stretched out in front of him and his arms hanging
out and hidden from view as if he was tinkering with something. When Andales would get near
the man, the latter would glare at him. Andales admitted, however, that he did not report the
suspicious characters to the police.

As soon as the bus reached the stoplight at the corner of Ayala Avenue and EDSA, the two
men insisted on getting off the bus. According to Andales, the bus driver initially did not want to
let them off the bus, because a Makati ordinance prohibited unloading anywhere except at
designated bus stops. Eventually, the bus driver gave in and allowed the two passengers to alight.
The two immediately got off the bus and ran towards Ayala Avenue. Moments after, Andales felt
an explosion. He then saw fire quickly engulfing the bus. He ran out of the bus towards a nearby
mall. After a while, he went back to where the bus was. He saw their bus passengers either lying
on the ground or looking traumatized. A few hours after, he made a statement before the Makati
Police Station narrating the whole incident.

The prosecution presented documents furnished by the Department of Justice, confirming


that shortly before the explosion, the spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf Group Abu Solaiman
announced over radio station DZBB that the group had a Valentines Day gift for former President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. After the bombing, he again went on radio and warned of more bomb
attacks.

As stipulated during pretrial, accused Trinidad gave ABS-CBN News Network an


exclusive interview some time after the incident, confessing his participation in the Valentines
Day bombing incident. In another exclusive interview on the network, accused Baharan likewise
admitted his role in the bombing incident. Finally, accused Asali gave a television interview,
confessing that he had supplied the explosive devices for the 14 February 2005 bombing. The bus
conductor identified the accused Baharan and Trinidad, and confirmed that they were the two
men who had entered the RRCG bus on the evening of 14 February.

Members of the Abu Sayyaf Group namely Khaddafy Janjalani, Gamal B. Baharan, Angelo
Trinidad, Gappal Bannah Asali, Jainal Asali, Rohmat Abdurrohim a.k.a. Abu Jackie or Zaky, and
other John and Jane Does were then charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.
Only Baharan, Trinidad, Asali, and Rohmat were arrested, while the other accused remain at-
large.

On their arraignment for the multiple murder charge (Crim. Case No. 05-476), Baharan,
Trinidad, and Asali all entered a plea of guilty. On the other hand, upon arraignment for
the multiple frustrated murder charge (Crim. Case No. 05-477), accused Asali pled guilty.
Accused Trinidad and Baharan pled not guilty. Rohmat pled not guilty to both charges. During
the pretrial hearing, the parties stipulated the following:
1.) The jurisdiction of this court over the offenses charged.

2.) That all three accused namely alias Baharan, Trinidad, and Asali admitted knowing one
another before February 14, 2005.
3.) All the same three accused likewise admitted that a bomb exploded in the RRCG bus
while the bus was plying the EDSA route fronting the MRT terminal which is in front of
the Makati Commercial Center.

4.) Accused Asali admitted knowing the other accused alias Rohmat whom he claims taught
him how to make explosive devices.

5.) The accused Trinidad also admitted knowing Rohmat before the February 14 bombing
incident.

6.) The accused Baharan, Trinidad, and Asali all admitted to causing the bomb explosion
inside the RRCG bus which left four people dead and more or less forty persons injured.

7.) Both Baharan and Trinidad agreed to stipulate that within the period March 20-24 each
gave separate interviews to the ABS-CBN news network admitting their participation in
the commission of the said crimes, subject of these cases.

8.) Accused Trinidad and Baharan also admitted to pleading guilty to these crimes, because
they were guilt-stricken after seeing a man carrying a child in the first bus that they had
entered.
9.) Accused Asali likewise admitted that in the middle of March 2005 he gave a television
news interview in which he admitted that he supplied the explosive devices which resulted
in this explosion inside the RRCG bus and which resulted in the filing of these charges.

10.) Finally, accused Baharan, Trinidad, and Asali admitted that they are members of the Abu
Sayyaf.[1]

In the light of the pretrial stipulations, the trial court asked whether accused Baharan and
Trinidad were amenable to changing their not guilty pleas to the charge of multiple frustrated
murder, considering that they pled guilty to the heavier charge of multiple murder, creating an
apparent inconsistency in their pleas. Defense counsel conferred with accused Baharan and
Trinidad and explained to them the consequences of the pleas. The two accused acknowledged
the inconsistencies and manifested their readiness for re-arraignment. After the Information was
read to them, Baharan and Trinidad pled guilty to the charge of multiple frustrated murder.[2]

After being discharged as state witness, accused Asali testified that while under training
with the Abu Sayyaf in 2004, Rohmat, a.k.a Abu Jackie or Zaky, and two other persons taught
him how to make bombs and explosives. The trainees were told that they were to wage battles
against the government in the city, and that their first mission was to plant bombs in malls, the
Light Railway Transit (LRT), and other parts of Metro Manila.

As found by the trial court, Asali, after his training, was required by the Abu Sayyaf
leadership, specifically Abu Solaiman and Rohmat, to secure eight kilos of TNT, a soldering gun,
aluminum powder, a tester, and Christmas lights, all of which he knew would be used to make a
bomb. He then recalled that sometime in November to December 2004, Trinidad asked him for a
total of 4 kilos of TNT that is, 2 kilos on two separate occasions. Rohmat allegedly called Asali
to confirm that Trinidad would get TNT from Asali and use it for their first mission. The TNT
was allegedly placed in two buses sometime in December 2004, but neither one of them exploded.

Asali then testified that the night before the Valentines Day bombing, Trinidad and
Baharan got another two kilos of TNT from him. Late in the evening of 14 February, he received
a call from Abu Solaiman. The latter told Asali not to leave home or go to crowded areas, since
the TNT taken by Baharan and Trinidad had already been exploded in Makati. Thirty minutes
later, Trinidad called Asali, repeating the warning of Abu Solaiman. The next day, Asali allegedly
received a call from accused Rohmat, congratulating the former on the success of the
mission.[3] According to Asali, Abu Zaky specifically said, Sa wakas nag success din yung tinuro
ko sayo.
Assignment of Errors

Accused-appellants raise the following assignment of errors:

I. The trial court gravely erred in accepting accused-appellants plea of guilt


despite insufficiency of searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full
comprehension of the consequences of the said plea.

II. The trial court gravely erred in finding that the guilt of accused-appellants
for the crimes charged had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.[4]

First Assignment of Error

Accused-appellants Baharan and Trinidad argue that the trial court did not conduct a searching
inquiry after they had changed their plea from not guilty to guilty. The transcript of stenographic
notes during the 18 April 2005 re-arraignment before the Makati Regional Trial Court is
reproduced below:

COURT : Anyway, I think what we should have to do, considering the stipulations that were
agreed upon during the last hearing, is to address this matter of pleas of not
guilty entered for the frustrated murder charges by the two accused, Mr.
Trinidad and Mr. Baharan, because if you will recall they entered pleas of guilty
to the multiple murder charges, but then earlier pleas of not guilty for
the frustrated multiple murder chargesremain [I]s that not inconsistent
considering the stipulations that were entered into during the initial pretrial of
this case? [If] you will recall, they admitted to have caused the bomb explosion
that led to the death of at least four people and injury of about forty other
persons and so under the circumstances, Atty Pea, have you discussed this
matter with your clients?

ATTY. PEA : Then we should be given enough time to talk with them. I havent conferred with
them about this with regard to the multiple murder case.

COURT : Okay. So let us proceed now. Atty. Pea, can you assist the two accused because if they
are interested in withdrawing their [pleas], I want to hear it from your lips.

ATTY. PEA : Yes, your Honor.


(At this juncture, Atty. Pea confers with the two accused, namely Trinidad and Baharan)
I have talked to them, your Honor, and I have explained to them the consequence of their pleas,
your Honor, and that the plea of guilt to the murder case and plea of not guilty
to the frustrated multiple murder actually are inconsistent with their pleas.

COURT : With matters that they stipulated upon?

ATTY. PEA : Yes, your Honor. So, they are now, since they already plead guilt to the murder
case, then they are now changing their pleas, your Honor, from not guilty to the
one of guilt. They are now ready, your Honor, for re-arraignment.

INTERPRETER: (Read again that portion [of the information] and translated it in Filipino in a
clearer way and asked both accused what their pleas are).
Your Honor, both accused are entering separate pleas of guilt to the crime charged.

COURT : All right. So after the information was re-read to the accused, they have withdrawn their
pleas of not guilty and changed it to the pleas of guilty to the charge
of frustrated murder. Thank you. Are there any matters you need to address at
pretrial now? If there are none, then I will terminate pretrial and
accommodate[5]

As early as in People v. Apduhan, the Supreme Court has ruled that all trial judges must
refrain from accepting with alacrity an accused's plea of guilty, for while justice demands a speedy
administration, judges are duty bound to be extra solicitous in seeing to it that when an accused
pleads guilty, he understands fully the meaning of his plea and the import of an inevitable
conviction.[6] Thus, trial court judges are required to observe the following procedure under
Section 3, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court:

SEC. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence. When the accused pleads guilty to
a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full
comprehension of the consequences of his plea and shall require the prosecution to prove his
guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may also present evidence in his behalf.
(Emphasis supplied)

The requirement to conduct a searching inquiry applies more so in cases of re-arraignment.


In People v. Galvez, the Court noted that since accused-appellant's original plea was not guilty,
the trial court should have exerted careful effort in inquiring into why he changed his plea to
guilty.[7]According to the Court:

The stringent procedure governing the reception of a plea of guilt, especially in a case involving
the death penalty, is imposed upon the trial judge in order to leave no room for doubt on the
possibility that the accused might have misunderstood the nature of the charge and the
consequences of the plea.[8]

Likewise, the requirement to conduct a searching inquiry should not be deemed satisfied in cases
in which it was the defense counsel who explained the consequences of a guilty plea to the
accused, as it appears in this case. In People v. Alborida, this Court found that there was still an
improvident plea of guilty, even if the accused had already signified in open court that his counsel
had explained the consequences of the guilty plea; that he understood the explanation of his
counsel; that the accused understood that the penalty of death would still be meted out to him;
and that he had not been intimidated, bribed, or threatened.[9]

We have reiterated in a long line of cases that the conduct of a searching inquiry remains
the duty of judges, as they are mandated by the rules to satisfy themselves that the accused had
not been under coercion or duress; mistaken impressions; or a misunderstanding of the
significance, effects, and consequences of their guilty plea.[10] This requirement is stringent and
mandatory.[11]
Nevertheless, we are not unmindful of the context under which the re-arraignment was
conducted or of the factual milieu surrounding the finding of guilt against the accused. The Court
observes that accused Baharan and Trinidad previously pled guilty to another charge multiple
murderbased on the same act relied upon in the multiple frustrated murder charge. The Court
further notes that prior to the change of plea to one of guilt, accused Baharan and Trinidad made
two other confessions of guilt one through an extrajudicial confession (exclusive television
interviews, as stipulated by both accused during pretrial), and the other via judicial admission
(pretrial stipulation). Considering the foregoing circumstances, we deem it unnecessary to rule
on the sufficiency of the searching inquiry in this instance. Remanding the case for re-arraignment
is not warranted, as the accuseds plea of guilt was not the sole basis of the condemnatory judgment
under consideration.[12]

Second Assignment of Error


In People v. Oden, the Court declared that even if the requirement of conducting a
searching inquiry was not complied with, [t]he manner by which the plea of guilt is made loses
much of great significance where the conviction can be based on independent evidence proving
the commission by the person accused of the offense charged.[13] Thus, in People v. Nadera, the
Court stated:

Convictions based on an improvident plea of guilt are set aside only if such plea is the sole
basis of the judgment. If the trial court relied on sufficient and credible evidence to convict
the accused, the conviction must be sustained, because then it is predicated not merely on the
guilty plea of the accused but on evidence proving his commission of the offense
charged.[14] (Emphasis supplied.)

In their second assignment of error, accused-appellants assert that guilt was not proven beyond
reasonable doubt. They pointed out that the testimony of the conductor was merely circumstantial,
while that of Asali as to the conspiracy was insufficient.

Insofar as accused-appellants Baharan and Trinidad are concerned, the evidence for the
prosecution, in addition to that which can be drawn from the stipulation of facts, primarily
consisted of the testimonies of the bus conductor, Elmer Andales, and of the accused-turned-state-
witness, Asali. Andales positively identified accused Baharan and Trinidad as the two men who
had acted suspiciously while inside the bus; who had insisted on getting off the bus in violation
of a Makati ordinance; and who had scampered away from the bus moments before the bomb
exploded. On the other hand, Asali testified that he had given accused Baharan and Trinidad the
TNT used in the bombing incident in Makati City. The guilt of the accused Baharan and Trinidad
was sufficiently established by these corroborating testimonies, coupled with their respective
judicial admissions (pretrial stipulations) and extrajudicial confessions (exclusive television
interviews, as they both stipulated during pretrial) that they were indeed the perpetrators of the
Valentines Day bombing.[15] Accordingly, the Court upholds the findings of guilt made by the
trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Anent accused Rohmat, the evidence for the prosecution consisted of the testimony of
accused-turned-state-witness Asali. Below is a reproduction of the transcript of stenographic
notes on the state prosecutors direct examination of state-witness Asali during the 26 May 2005
trial:

Q : You stated that Zaky trained you and Trinidad. Under what circumstances did he train you,
Mr. Witness, to assemble those explosives, you and Trinidad?

A : Abu Zaky, Abu Solaiman, Khadaffy Janjalani, the three of them, that Angelo Trinidad and
myself be the one to be trained to make an explosive, sir.

Q : Mr. witness, how long that training, or how long did it take that training?

A : If I am not mistaken, we were thought to make bomb about one month and two weeks.

Q : Now, speaking of that mission, Mr. witness, while you were still in training at Mr. Cararao, is
there any mission that you undertook, if any, with respect to that mission?

A : Our first mission was to plant a bomb in the malls, LRT, and other parts of Metro Manila,
sir.[16]

The witness then testified that he kept eight kilos of TNT for accused Baharan and Trinidad.
Q : Now, going back to the bomb. Mr. witness, did you know what happened to the 2 kilos of
bomb that Trinidad and Tapay took from you sometime in November 2004?
A : That was the explosive that he planted in the G-liner, which did not explode.

Q : How did you know, Mr. witness?

A : He was the one who told me, Mr. Angelo Trinidad, sir.

Q : What happened next, Mr. witness, when the bomb did not explode, as told to you by Trinidad?

A : On December 29, Angelo Trinidad got 2 more kilos of TNT bombs.

Q : Did Trinidad tell you why he needed another amount of explosive on that date, December 29,
2004? Will you kindly tell us the reason why?

A : He told me that Abu Solaiman instructed me to get the TNT so that he could detonate a bomb

Q : Were there any other person, besides Abu Solaiman, who called you up, with respect to the
taking of the explosives from you?

A : There is, sir Abu Zaky, sir, called up also.

Q : What did Abu Zaky tell you when he called you up?

A : He told me that this is your first mission.

Q : Please enlighten the Honorable Court. What is that mission you are referring to?

A : That is the first mission where we can show our anger towards the Christians.

Q : The second time that he got a bomb from you, Mr. witness, do you know if the bomb explode?

A : I did not know what happened to the next 2 kilos taken by Angelo Trinidad from me until after
I was caught, because I was told by the policeman that interviewed me after I
was arrested that the 2 kilos were planted in a bus, which also did not explode.

Q : So besides these two incidents, were there any other incidents that Angelo Trinidad and Tapay
get an explosive for you, Mr. witness?

A : If I am not mistaken, sir, on February 13, 2005 at 6:30 p.m.

Q : Who got from you the explosive Mr. witness?

A : Its Angelo Trinidad and Tapay, sir.

Q : How many explosives did they get from you, Mr. witness, at that time?

A : They got 2 kilos TNT bomb, sir.

Q : Did they tell you, Mr. witness, where are they going to use that explosive?

A : No, sir.
Q : Do you know, Mr. witness, what happened to the third batch of explosives, which were taken
from you by Trinidad and Tapay?

A : That is the bomb that exploded in Makati, sir.

Q : Why did you know, Mr. witness?

A : Because I was called in the evening of February 14 by Abu Solaiman. He told me not to leave
the house because the explosive that were taken by Tapay and Angelo Trinidad
exploded.

Q : Was there any other call during that time, Mr. Witness?

A : I was told by Angelo Trinidad not to leave the house because the explosive that he took
exploded already, sir.

Q : How sure were you, Mr. witness, at that time, that indeed, the bomb exploded at Makati, beside
the call of Abu Solaiman and Trinidad?

A : It was told by Abu Solaiman that the bombing in Makati should coincide with the bombing in
General Santos.

A : He told it to me, sir I cannot remember the date anymore, but I know it was sometime in
February 2005.

Q : Any other call, Mr. witness, from Abu Solaiman and Trinidad after the bombing exploded in
Makati, any other call?

A : There is, sir The call came from Abu Zaky.

Q : What did Abu Zaky tell you, Mr. witness?

A : He just greeted us congratulations, because we have a successful mission.

A : He told me that sa wakas, nag success din yung tinuro ko sayo.

Q : By the way, Mr. witness, I would just like to clarify this. You stated that Abu Zaky called you
up the following day, that was February 15, and congratulating you for the
success of the mission. My question to you, Mr. witness, if you know what is
the relation of that mission, wherein you were congratulated by Abu Zaky, to
the mission, which have been indoctrinated to you, while you were in Mt.
Cararao, Mr. witness?

A : They are connected, sir.

Q : Connected in what sense, Mr. witness?

A : Because when we were undergoing training, we were told that the Abu Sayyaf should not wage
war to the forest, but also wage our battles in the city.

Q : Wage the battle against who, Mr. witness?

A : The government, sir.[17]


What can be culled from the testimony of Asali is that the Abu Sayyaf Group was
determined to sow terror in Metro Manila, so that they could show their anger towards the
Christians.[18] It can also be seen that Rohmat, together with Janjalani and Abu Solaiman, had
carefully planned the Valentines Day bombing incident, months before it happened. Rohmat had
trained Asali and Trinidad to make bombs and explosives. While in training, Asali and others
were told that their mission was to plant bombs in malls, the LRT, and other parts of Metro
Manila. According to Asali, Rohmat called him on 29 December 2004 to confirm that Trinidad
would get two kilos of TNT from Asali, as they were about to commence their first
mission.[19] They made two separate attempts to bomb a bus in Metro Manila, but to no avail. The
day before the Valentines Day bombing, Trinidad got another two kilos of TNT from Asali. On
Valentines Day, the Abu Sayyaf Group announced that they had a gift for the former President,
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. On their third try, their plan finally succeeded. Right after the bomb
exploded, the Abu Sayyaf Group declared that there would be more bombings in the future. Asali
then received a call from Rohmat, praising the former: Sa wakas nag success din yung tinuro ko
sayo.[20]

In the light of the foregoing evidence, the Court upholds the finding of guilt against
Rohmat. Article 17 of the Revised Penal Code reads:

Art. 17. Principals. The following are considered principals:

1. Those who take a direct part in the execution of the act


2. Those who directly force or induce others to commit it
3. Those who cooperate in the commission of the offense by another act without which it would not have
been accomplished

Accused Rohmat is criminally responsible under the second paragraph, or the provision on
principal by inducement. The instructions and training he had given Asali on how to make bombs
coupled with their careful planning and persistent attempts to bomb different areas in Metro
Manila and Rohmats confirmation that Trinidad would be getting TNT from Asali as part of their
mission prove the finding that Rohmats co-inducement was the determining cause of the
commission of the crime.[21] Such command or advice [was] of such nature that, without it, the
crime would not have materialized.[22]

Further, the inducement was so influential in producing the criminal act that without it, the
act would not have been performed.[23] In People v. Sanchez, et al., the Court ruled that,
notwithstanding the fact that Mayor Sanchez was not at the crime scene, evidence proved that he
was the mastermind of the criminal act or the principal by inducement. Thus, because Mayor
Sanchez was a co-principal and co-conspirator, and because the act of one conspirator is the act
of all, the mayor was rendered liable for all the resulting crimes. [24] The same finding must be
applied to the case at bar.

The Court also affirms the finding of the existence of conspiracy involving accused
Baharan, Trinidad, and Rohmat. Conspiracy was clearly established from the collective acts of
the accused-appellants before, during and after the commission of the crime. As correctly
declared by the trial court in its Omnibus Decision:

Asalis clear and categorical testimony, which remains unrebutted on its major points,
coupled with the judicial admissions freely and voluntarily given by the two other accused, are
sufficient to prove the existence of a conspiracy hatched between and among the four accused, all
members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, to wreak chaos and mayhem in the metropolis by
indiscriminately killing and injuring civilian victims by utilizing bombs and other similar
destructive explosive devices.
While said conspiracy involving the four malefactors has not been expressly admitted by
accused Baharan, Angelo Trinidad, and Rohmat, more specifically with respect to the latters
participation in the commission of the crimes, nonetheless it has been established by virtue of the
aforementioned evidence, which established the existence of the conspiracy itself and the
indispensable participation of accused Rohmat in seeing to it that the conspirators criminal design
would be realized.

It is well-established that conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused, which
clearly manifests a concurrence of wills, a common intent or design to commit a crime (People v.
Lenantud, 352 SCRA 544). Hence, where acts of the accused collectively and individually
demonstrate the existence of a common design towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful
purpose, conspiracy is evident and all the perpetrators will be held liable as principals (People v.
Ellado, 353 SCRA 643).[25]

In People v. Geronimo, the Court pronounced that it would be justified in concluding that
the defendants therein were engaged in a conspiracy when the defendants by their acts aimed at
the same object, one performing one part and the other performing another part so as to complete
it, with a view to the attainment of the same object; and their acts, though apparently independent,
were in fact concerted and cooperative, indicating closeness of personal association, concerted
action and concurrence of sentiments.[26]

Accused contend that the testimony of Asali is inadmissible pursuant to Sec. 30, Rule 130
of the Rules of Court. It is true that under the rule, statements made by a conspirator against a co-
conspirator are admissible only when made during the existence of the conspiracy. However, as
the Court ruled in People v. Buntag, if the declarant repeats the statement in court, his
extrajudicial confession becomes a judicial admission, making the testimony admissible as to
both conspirators.[27] Thus, in People v. Palijon, the Court held the following:

[W]e must make a distinction between extrajudicial and judicial confessions. An extrajudicial
confession may be given in evidence against the confessant but not against his co-accused as they
are deprived of the opportunity to cross-examine him. A judicial confession is admissible against
the declarants co-accused since the latter are afforded opportunity to cross-examine the
former. Section 30, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court applies only to extrajudicial acts or
admissions and not to testimony at trial where the party adversely affected has the
opportunity to cross-examine the declarant. Mercenes admission implicating his co-accused
was given on the witness stand. It is admissible in evidence against appellant Palijon. Moreover,
where several accused are tried together for the same offense, the testimony of a co-accused
implicating his co-accused is competent evidence against the latter.[28]

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati,
as affirmed with modification by the Court of Appeals, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

SECTION 4. Plea of Guilty to Non-capital Offense; Reception of Evidence, Discretionary.

[G.R. No. 137491. November 23, 2000]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. VICENTE FLORES y


MONDRAGON, accused-appellant.

DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:
In an Information filed on 14 October 1996, accused-appellant Vicente Flores y Mondragon
(hereafter VICENTE) was charged before the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City with the violation
of Section 9, Article II of R.A. 6425,[1] as amended. The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 12731
and assigned to Branch 35 thereof. The information alleges:

That on October 11, 1996, at about four oclock in the afternoon, at Sitio Tontonan,
Barangay Bal-os, Basay, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and there willfully and unlawfully
PLANT and CULTIVATE Indian hemp or Marijuana plants, all having a total weight of 230
grams, without authority of law.

CONTRARY TO LAW. [2]

When arraigned on 8 January 1999, VICENTE, in the presence and with the assistance of his
counsel, pleaded guilty to the crime charged.[3] The trial court inquired into the voluntariness of the plea
and VICENTEs comprehension thereof. It informed VICENTE that the offense with which he was
charged and which he admitted carries the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death; but VICENTE was
firm in his plea of guilty.
As a result of VICENTEs voluntary plea of guilty, the trial court on 12 January 1999 promulgated
an Order,[4] the pertinent portion of which reads:

In view therefore of the spontaneous and voluntary plea of guilty entered by accused
Vicente Flores y Mondragon, the Court finds him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
violating Section 9, Article II of R.A. 6425 as amended, otherwise known as the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, and appreciating in his favor the mitigating circumstance of
plea of guilty without any aggravating circumstance to offset the same, and applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, hereby sentence him to reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine
of five hundred thousand pesos, without subsidiary imprisonment, however, in case of
insolvency, and to pay the cost.

The accused shall be credited with the full time of his preventive imprisonment in accordance with
Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 6127, if the conditions prescribed therein have
been complied.[5]
Not satisfied with the penalty imposed by the trial court, VICENTE moved to reconsider the
same. He contended that since only 230 grams of marijuana were found to have been cultivated and
planted by him, then in accordance with Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659 and with the doctrine enunciated
in People v. Simon,[6] he should be sentenced to suffer only the penalty of six (6) months of arresto
mayor, as minimum, to two years and four (4) months of prision correccional, as maximum.
On 2 February 1999, the trial court issued an order denying the motion for reconsideration for lack
of merit.[7]
Not satisfied, VICENTE appealed to us. On 5 July 1999 we accepted the appeal.
In his Appellants Brief, VICENTE alleges that:
I

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE PENALTY OF RECLUSION


PERPETUA IN THE CASE AT BAR IN THE LIGHT OF THE PREVAILING
JURISPRUDENCE ON THE MATTER.
II

CONSIDERING THE COURT A QUOS FINDING THAT THE CASE AT BAR INVOLVES A
CAPITAL OFFENSE, IT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT PROPERLY OBSERVING THE
PROVISIONS OF SECTION 3, RULE 116 OF THE RULES OF COURT.

Then in his Supplemental Appellants Brief, which we admitted on 6 March 2000, VICENTE submits
this additional assignment of error:
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING A FINE OF FIVE HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS IN THE CASE AT BAR IN THE LIGHT OF THE PREVAILING
JURISPRUDENCE ON THE MATTER.

He contends that the quantity of the marijuana involved in this case is only 230 grams. Conformably
then with Section 20 of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by Section 17 of R.A. 7659 [8] and the rule laid down
in People v. Simon,[9] reclusion perpetua cannot be imposed on him. Applying in his favor the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, he can be sentenced only to an indeterminate penalty ranging from six
(6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to two (2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional,
as maximum. It also follows that no fine could be imposed on him because, as pronounced in People
vs. Simon, fine is imposed as a conjunctive penalty only if the penalty is reclusion perpetua to death.
Anent the second assigned error VICENTE argues that since the trial court was of the view that the
case at bar involved a capital offense, it erred in not properly observing the procedure provided for in
Section 3, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court which states:

Sec. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence. - When the accused pleads
guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness
and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and require the prosecution to
prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may also present
evidence in his behalf.

VICENTE asserts that in People v. Dayot[10] we held that under this section, the judge is required to
accomplish three things: (1) to conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full
comprehension of the consequences of the accuseds plea; (2) to require the prosecution to prove the
guilt of the accused and the precise degree of his culpability; and (3) to inquire whether or not the
accused wishes to present evidence on his behalf and allow him to do so if he so desires. This
procedure is mandatory, and a judge who fails to observe it commits a grave abuse of discretion.
In the Appellees Brief the Office of the Solicitor General agrees with VICENTE as regards the latters
first assigned error in the Appellants Brief and the additional assigned error in the Supplemental
Appellants Brief. It disagreed with him on the second assigned error because Section 3 of Rule 116 of
the Rules of Court is not applicable in this case. VICENTE did not plead to a capital offense since the
imposable penalty for the offense charged is only prision correccional under the law and according to
the current jurisprudence. The applicable provision is Section 4 of Rule 116, which provides:

SEC. 4. When the accused pleads guilty to a non-capital offense, the court may receive
evidence from the parties to determine the penalty to be imposed.

However, such reception is within the discretion of the court.


The appeal is meritorious.
We agree with VICENTE that the trial court erred in imposing on him the penalty of reclusion
perpetua and ordering him to pay a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos on the basis of Section 9,
Article II of R.A. No. 6425 as amended, which reads:

SEC. 9. Cultivation of Plants which are Sources of Prohibited Drugs.- The penalty
of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten
million pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall plant, cultivate or culture on
any medium Indian hemp, opium poppy (papaver somniferum) or any other plant which is
or may hereafter be classified as dangerous drug or from which any dangerous drug may
be manufactured or derived.

It is true that under this section the prescribed penalty is reclusion perpetua to death and a fine
ranging from five hundred thousand pesos to ten million.However, this section is subject to the provision
of Section 20 of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by Sec. 17 of R.A. No. 7659, the pertinent portion of which
reads as follows:

SEC. 20. Application of Penalties, Confiscation and forfeiture of the Crime. The penalties
for offenses under Section 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 of Article II and Section 14, 14-A, 15 and 16 of
Article III of this Act shall be applied if the dangerous drugs involved is in any of the
following quantities:

xxx

5. 750 grams or more of indian hemp or marijuana;

xxx

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalty shall
range from prision correccional to reclusion perpetua depending upon the quantity.

Consequently, the penalty prescribed in Section 9 will apply only if the quantity of the dangerous
drugs involved falls within the first paragraph of Section 20 as amended, i.e., 750 grams or more of
Indian hemp or marijuana. If the quantity is lower than that specified therein, i.e., less than 750 grams,
the penalty shall be from prision correccional to reclusion perpetua, pursuant to the second paragraph
of said Section 20. Withal, the penalty under Section 9 shall be applicable depending on the quantity
of the regulated drugs involved.
On the basis of the foregoing, considering that the Indian hemp or marijuana plants found in the
possession of VICENTE had a total weight of only 230 grams, the imposable penalty is only prision
correccional pursuant to our decision in People v. Simon.[11] We quote these pertinent portions thereof:

(1) Where the quantity of the dangerous drug involved is less than the quantities stated in
the first paragraph of Section 20 of R.A. No. 6425, the penalty to be imposed shall range
from prision correccional to reclusion temporal, and not reclusion perpetua. The reason is
that there is an overlapping error, probably through oversight in the drafting, in the
provisions on the penalty of reclusion perpetua as shown by its dual imposition, i.e., as the
minimum of the penalty where the quantity of the dangerous drugs involved is more than
those specified in the first paragraph of the amended Section 20 and also as the
maximum of the penalty where the quantity of the dangerous drugs involved is less than
those so specified in the first paragraph.

(2) Considering that the aforesaid penalty of prision correccional to reclusion temporal
shall depend upon the quantity of the dangerous drugs involved, each of the component
penalties thereof prision correccional, prision mayor, and reclusion temporal shall be
considered as a principal imposable penalty depending on the quantity, such that the
quantity of the drugs enumerated in the second paragraph should then be divided into
three, with the resulting quotient, and double or treble the same, as the bases for
determining the appropriate component penalty. Thus, if the marijuana is below 250
grams, the penalty to be imposed shall be prision correccional; from 250 to 499
grams, prision mayor; and 500 to 749 grams, reclusion temporal.

(3) The modifying circumstances in the Revised Penal Code may be appreciated to
determine the proper period of the corresponding imposable penalty or even to effect its
reduction by one or more degrees; provided, however, that in no case should such
graduation of penalties reduce the imposable penalty lower than prision correccional.

(4) In appropriate instances, the Indeterminate Sentence Law shall be applied and
considering that R.A. No. 7659 has unqualifiedly adopted the penalties under the Revised
Penal Code with their technical significations and effects, then the crimes under the
Dangerous Drugs Act shall now be considered as crimes punished by the Revised Penal
Code; hence, pursuant to Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the indeterminate
penalty which may be imposed shall be one whose maximum shall be within the range of
the imposable penalty and whose minimum shall be within the range of the penalty next
lower in degree to the imposable penalty. [12]
In the instant case, VICENTE pleaded guilty under the information charging him with willful and
unlawful planting and cultivation of marijuana with a total weight of 230 grams. It is settled that a plea
of guilty not merely joins the issues of the complaint or information, but amounts to an admission of
guilt and of the material facts alleged in the complaint or information and in this sense takes the place
of the trial itself. Such plea removes the necessity of presenting further evidence and for all intents and
purposes the case is deemed tried on its merits and submitted for decision. It leaves the court with no
alternative but to impose the penalty prescribed by law.[13] Thus, when formally entered on arraignment,
it is sufficient to sustain a conviction for any offense charged in the information, without the necessity
of requiring additional evidence, since by so pleading, the defendant himself has supplied the necessary
proof.[14]
With the foregoing as our touchstones, VICENTEs plea of guilty warrants the imposition of the
penalty of prision correccional pursuant to the second paragraph of Section 20 of R.A. No. 6425, as
further amended by Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659, conformably with our ruling in People v.
Simon. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the penalty imposable should be an indeterminate
penalty whose minimum should be within the range of the penalty next lower in degree, which is arresto
mayor, and whose maximum should be the proper period of prision correccional taking into account the
proven modifying circumstance. Having voluntarily entered a plea of not guilty, which is a mitigating
circumstance,[15] then applying Article 64 of the Revised Penal Code, the maximum would be
the medium period of prision correccional. More concretely, VICENTE can thus be sentenced to suffer
an indeterminate penalty ranging from four (4) months of arresto mayor as minimum, to two (2) years,
four (4) months and one (1) day of prision correccional medium, as maximum.
Considering the reduction of the penalty herein imposed, the other contention of VICENTE that the
penalty of fine should be deleted must be sustained.Section 17 of Republic Act No. 7659 does not
prescribe any fine in cases involving a quantity of less than 750 grams of Indian hemp or
marijuana.[16] Fine is imposed as a conjunctive penalty only if the penalty is reclusion perpetua to
death.[17] In light of the foregoing disquisitions, VICENTEs other assignment of error as to the failure of
the trial court to comply with the requirements of Section 3, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court must fail.
Section 3, Rule 116 provides that when the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court
shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences
of his plea and require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The
accused may also present evidence on his behalf. In the present case, VICENTE, as previously
discussed, stands charged in the information of an offense in which the maximum penalty imposable
is only prision correccional considering that the quantity of marijuana involved is only 230 grams. As to
whether the offense charged is capital or not, the only determinant factor is the information itself. A
cursory reading of the information herein will show that VICENTE is being charged of a non-capital
offense. Perforce, the applicable rule should be Section 4 of Rule 116, which provides that when the
accused pleads guilty to a non-capital offense, the court may receive evidence from the parties to
determine the penalty to be imposed. While the present Rules of Court makes it mandatory for the
court, when the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, to take additional evidence as to the guilt of
the accused and the circumstances attendant upon the commission of the crime after the entry of plea
of guilty, that is not so in non-capital offenses. In the latter, the reception of evidence is discretionary
with the court.[18] It cannot then be said that the trial court erred when it failed to require the prosecution
to present evidence in order to have some basis for the decision. At any rate, records will show that
herein accused was asked in open court searching questions by the trial judge to determine the
voluntariness and the full comprehension of his plea.[19]
WHEREFORE, the challenged decision of Branch 35 of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete
City is hereby AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATION that accused VICENTE FLORES y
MONDRAGON is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging from four (4) months
of arresto mayor as minimum to two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of prision
correccional as maximum, and the fine of Five Hundred Thousand pesos imposed upon him is ordered
DELETED.
It appearing from the records that VICENTE has been under detention since 15 July 1998, [20] thereby
having served more than the maximum of the indeterminate penalty herein imposed, his immediate
release from custody is hereby ordered, unless he is held for some other cause. The Director of the
Bureau of Corrections shall submit a report on the release or otherwise of accused-appellant Vicente
Flores y Mondragon within five (5) days from receipt of a copy of this decision.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, Kapunan, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

SECTION 5. Withdrawal of Improvident Plea of Guilty.

[G.R. No. 123161. June 18, 2003]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. LIBERATO DUKDUK


SOLAMILLO and JULIAN SOLAMILLO, accused-appellants.

DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

For automatic review is the Decision[1] dated September 20, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 1, Isabela, Basilan, in Criminal Case No. 2099 declaring Liberato Dukduk Solamillo and Julian
Solamillo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of robbery with homicide and sentencing
them to suffer the penalty of death. They were also adjudged to pay Aleli P. Guiroy, the daughter of the
victim, Alexander Guiroy, P500,000.00 as moral damages, P200,000.00 as exemplary
damages, P20,000.00 as attorneys fee and P500.00 as costs.
On March 23, 1994, an Information[2] was filed with the said trial court charging brothers Liberato
Dukduk and Julian Solamillo, appellants, together with Edgardo Ebarle and Eddie Angel Trumata, with
the crime of robbery with homicide, committed as follows:

That on or about the 2nd day of March, 1994, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, viz., at Aguada Barangay, Municipality of Isabela, Province of Basilan, Philippines, the
above-named accused, armed with a bolo, bakawan wood and wooden stool, conspiring and
confederating together, aiding and assisting one with the other, with treachery and evident
premeditation and with intent to kill and by means of force and violence upon person, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously assault, club and hack at the person of Alexander
Guiroy, proprietor of Liberty Bakery and Grocery, thereby inflicting hack wounds and bodily
injuries on the different parts of the body of the latter, which caused his instantaneous death. That
taking advantage that the victim, Alexander Guiroy, was already dead, and with intent to gain, the
said accused forcibly took, stole and carted away the following described property belonging to the
said Alexander Guiroy; viz., cash money equivalent to four-day income amounting to more or
less P20,000.00, wristwatch Seiko Diver worth P3,000.00 and a wallet colored black, to the
damages and prejudice of the legal heirs of the deceased Alexander Guiroy in the total amount
of P23,000.00, Philippine Currency.

Contrary to law.

Upon arraignment with the assistance of counsel, appellant Liberato Dukduk Solamillo and
Edgardo Ebarle pleaded not guilty, while appellant Julian Solamillo entered a plea of guilty. [3] Eddie
Trumata was not arraigned as he has been at large.
The prosecution filed a motion praying that Edgardo Ebarle be discharged as an accused to be
utilized as a state witness. However, he died before he could testify.[4]
During the trial, the prosecution presented the following witnesses: Aleli P. Guiroy, Dr. Teresita L.
Dans, Emmanuel Guiroy, SPO4 Pedro Oreta, and PO3 Celso Tan Sanchez. Their testimonies are
summarized below.
The victim owned the Liberty Bakery and Grocery located at Rizal Avenue, Isabela, Basilan. His
employees were appellant Julian Solamillo, Edgardo Ebarle and Eddie Trumata, who lived together in
the bakery.[5]
On March 2, 1994, Edgardo Ebarle, Eddie Trumata and appellants were at the bakery. Aleli Guiroy,
the victims daughter, saw them when she arrived at around 5:00 p.m. until she left at 6:10 p.m.[6]
The next morning, Aleli returned to the bakery but was unable to open the doors. She sought help
from her uncle, Lorenzo Guiroy who, in turn, asked Warlito Gonoz to accompany her back to the
bakery. When Warlito peeped through a window, he saw the victim lying on the floor. Immediately, they
reported the matter to the police.[7]
PO3 Celso Tan Sanchez arrived and found the victims dead body, a wooden stool, a bolo and a
piece of bakawan (firewood), all with blood. The table drawers were open and the bakery was in
disarray.[8] Aleli informed PO3 Sanchez that her fathers P20,000.00, wallet and Seiko watch were
missing.[9]
Dr. Teresita Dans examined the victims body. She confirmed her Post-Mortem Report[10] that the
victim suffered 21 incised wounds, multiple contusion-hematoma and multiple abrasions which caused
his death. According to her, the incised wounds were probably caused by a knife or bolo, while the
multiple hematoma, contusions, and abrasions were caused by a blunt instrument, like a piece of wood
or pipe.[11]
Aleli testified that she spent more than P20,000.00 for the funeral of her father.[12]
On March 4, 1994, or two days after the incident, the police of Lamitan, the neighboring town of
Basilan, informed Emmanuel Guiroy, the victims brother, that they have apprehended Edgardo
Ebarle. Forthwith, Emmanuel and SPO4 Pedro Oreta went to Lamitan. There the police turned over
Edgardo to SPO4 Oreta. While on their way back to Isabela, Edgardo told Emmanuel that Eddie
Trumata and appellants assaulted the victim, pulled him to the table and hit his head. [13]
On March 6, 1994, or four days after the incident, SPO4 Oreta arrested appellant Liberato Solamillo
in Zamboanga City. While he was being investigated at the police station, SPO4 Oreta noticed that he
was wearing a watch. Emmanuel confirmed that it belonged to the victim. SPO4 Oreta then asked
appellant to open his traveling bag and found therein the victims missing wallet and money amounting
to P48.00.[14]
Upon the other hand, appellants, and their brother Melanio Solamillo have a different story to tell.
On March 2, 1994, the day of the incident, at around 4:00 p.m., Liberato visited his brother Julian
at the victims bakery. After about one hour, Liberato went to Melanios house. [15] Meanwhile, at past 6:30
p.m., Julian started preparing the flour needed for baking, while Edgardo Ebarle and Eddie Trumata
cooked their supper. But before they could eat, the victim scolded Edgardo and Eddie for creating a
mess in the bakery. He continued scolding the two as he sat down to feed his cat. Suddenly, Julian
saw Eddie hitting the victims head with a piece of bakawan causing the latter to fall. He managed to
get up and exchanged blows with Eddie. At this point, Edgardo got a bolo and attacked the victim. Julian
could not intervene because Eddie threatened to kill him if he would do so.[16]
After beating the victim, Eddie and Edgardo ransacked the drawers and took the money. They then
asked Julian to leave. But before he could do so, he managed to take P995.00 from the money
scattered on the floor. Eddie and Edgardo headed off to Lamitan, Basilan,[17] while Julian passed by
Zamboanga City on his way to Dumaguete City where he intended to surrender. While in Zamboanga
City, he met his brother Liberato, who was then looking for him.Thereafter, Julian proceeded to
Dumaguete City. Liberato was supposed to head back to Isabela but was forced to spend the night in
Zamboanga City because he missed the boat.[18]
The next day, March 6, Melanio accompanied Emmanuel Guiroy and SPO4 Oreta to Zamboanga
to look for both appellants. On the same day, Liberato was arrested.[19] While he was being interrogated
at the Tetuan, Zamboanga Police Sub-Station, SPO4 Oreta showed him a wallet, a watch and some
money, stating that these are evidence against him. Liberato immediately denied having knowledge
about the said items. Then, he was turned over to the Isabela police.[20]
Meanwhile, Julian surrendered to the police in Bacong, Dumaguete where he was detained until
he was turned over to the Isabela police.[21] He pleaded guilty during the arraignment because a
policeman named Bayabos threatened to kill him.[22]
On September 20, 1995, the trial court rendered a Decision,[23] the dispositive portion of which,
reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds the accused, Liberato Dukduk Solamillo and
Julian Solamillo GUILTY as principals beyond the shadow of any doubt of committing the crime
of Robbery with Homicide as charged in the Information, which crime is defined and penalized
under Art. 248 (should be Art. 294) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Sec. 6 (should be
Sec. 9) of Republic Act No. 7659, the commission of which was attended by the following
circumstances, to wit:

1. Committed by a band, there were four (4) persons who committed the offense. (par.
6, Art. 14, Revised Penal Code);

2. Committed with evident premeditation. (par. 13, Art. 14, supra);

3. Committed by treachery. (par. 16, Art. 14, supra); and

4. Committed with deliberate cruelty, considering that the victim suffered twenty-one
(21) hack and stab-wounds and contusion and abrasions on different parts of his
body.

Without any mitigating circumstances to offset any of them, (this court) hereby sentences both and
each of them to suffer the extreme penalty of DEATH and to pay the following damages to Miss
Aleli Guiroy who in her youthful years has lost her father, upon whom her future security depends,
to wit:

1. P500,000.00 as moral damages;

2. P200,000.00 as exemplary damages;

3. P20,000.00 as attorneys fee; and

4. P500.00 as judicial costs.

xxx

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Appellants Liberato and Julian Solamillo, in their brief, contend that the trial court erred in finding
them guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide and in imposing upon them the death penalty. [24]
We disagree.
The trial court correctly convicted the appellants on the basis of the chain of circumstantial evidence
established by the prosecution, thus:

1. Edgardo Ebarle, Eddie Trumata, and appellant Julian Solamillo worked and lived in the
bakery owned by the victim. The other appellant, Liberato Solamillo, was also at the
bakery in the afternoon of March 2, 1994. The following day, the victim was found dead;

2. After the commission of the crime, all four accused fled: Edgardo and Eddie to
Lamitan, Basilan; Julian to Dumaguete City; and Liberato to Zamboanga City;

3. When Liberato was arrested in Zamboanga City, the victims wristwatch and wallet
were found in his possession; and

4. Julian admitted that immediately after the victim was killed, he picked up P995.00
scattered on the bakery floor after Eddie and Edgardo ransacked the drawers containing
money. [25]

Circumstantial evidence is sufficient basis for conviction as long as: (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.[26] Thus, facts and
circumstances consistent with guilt and inconsistent with innocence, constitute evidence which, in
weight and probative force, may surpass even direct evidence in its effect upon the court.[27] These facts
and circumstances are present here and constitute sufficient evidence which warrants the conviction
of both appellants.
Liberato denied having the victims personal effects in his possession, insisting that he saw these
items for the first time when he was being interrogated.[28]
Section 3, Rule 131 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:

Sec. 3. Disputable presumptions. The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but
may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

xxx

(j) That a person found in possession of a thing taken in the doing of a recent wrongful act is the
taker and the doer of the whole act; x x x

We find that Liberato failed to overcome this presumption. He could not provide a satisfactory
explanation why the victims belongings were in his possession. Moreover, he could not show any ill
motive on the part of SPO4 Oreta that would impel the latter to fabricate evidence against him. SPO4
Oreta enjoys the presumption that he has regularly performed his official duty. [29] Liberato likewise failed
to overthrow this presumption.
We find untenable Liberatos explanation that he went to Zamboanga City after the commission of
the crime to look for his brother Julian. True, flight per secannot prove the guilt of an accused, but if the
same is considered in the light of other circumstances, it may be deemed as a strong indication of
guilt.[30] His flight to Zamboanga City when linked with his presence at the bakery, the crime scene, and
his possession of the victims effects upon his arrest, strongly indicate his participation in the
commission of the crime. Thus, the trial court correctly held that the circumstances taken together point
to the fair and logical conclusion that appellant Liberato Solamillo is guilty of the crime of robbery with
homicide.
For his part, appellant Julian Solamillo maintains that the trial court erred in disregarding his tacit
withdrawal of his guilty plea. He claims that policeman Bayabos threatened to kill him if he will plead
not guilty.
Section 5, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, provides that (a)t
any time before the judgment of conviction becomes final, the court may permit an improvident plea of
guilty to be withdrawn and be substituted by a plea of not guilty. The tenor of the quoted provision is
clear. There should be a categorical declaration from the accused that he is withdrawing his plea of
guilty and substituting it with a plea of not guilty.
There is nothing in the records to show that Julian filed a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty or
that he, in any manner, manifested unequivocally that he was withdrawing his plea. He contends though
that he made such manifestation when he testified on April 26, 1995, thus:
Q Mr. Witness, from what you testified before this Court, you want to impress this Court that your only
participation is the robbing or taking of the money that was scattered on the store of Mr. Guiroy
on March 2, 1994. Then why did you plead guilty to the offense during the arraignment?
A I pleaded guilty because while I was in the police station, I was instructed to plead guilty and if I will
not plead guilty I will be killed. I have a lawyer, but he will not sleep with me in the police
station. That is the reason why I pleaded guilty here.
Q You mentioned of threat, can you mention a police who threatened you?
A Yes, sir.
Q Who?
A Bayabos.[31]
The above testimony is not a positive and categorical declaration that appellant Julian was
withdrawing his plea of guilty. Without any unequivocal act on his part, the trial court could not assume
that he was withdrawing his original plea. Furthermore, by appellants own admission, he went to
Dumaguete City with the intention of surrendering to the authorities. This belies his contention that he
was threatened into entering a guilty plea for if he was truly innocent, why is it that his first instinct was
to surrender?
Even assuming that Julian made an improvident plea of guilty and subsequently withdrew it, such
fact does not operate to automatically exculpate him from criminal liability. Convictions based on an
improvident plea of guilty are set aside only if such plea is the sole basis of the judgment. If the trial
court relied on sufficient and credible evidence to convict the accused, the conviction must be sustained
because then it is predicated not merely on the guilty plea of the accused but on evidence proving his
commission of the offense charged.[32]
In the instant case, the trial court, in determining the guilt of appellant Julian Solamillo, relied on
the extensive evidence of the contending parties, not merely on his plea of guilty. Indeed his conviction
can be sustained based on independent evidence other than his plea. Thus, whether or not his plea of
guilty was improvidently made is inconsequential for the simple reason that his conviction was based
on other evidence proving his culpability for the offense charged. [33]
In the offense of robbery with homicide, a crime primarily classified as one against property and
not against persons, the prosecution has to firmly establish the following elements: (a) the taking of
personal property with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; (b) the property thus taken
belongs to another; (c) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; and (d) on the
occasion of the robbery or by reason thereof, the crime of homicide, which is therein used in a generic
sense, was committed.[34]
In this case, the prosecution amply established the said elements. Appellant Julian Solamillos
contention that he cannot be held liable for homicide because he only took money but did not participate
in the victims killing is untenable. What is essential in robbery with homicide is that there is a direct
relation and intimate connection between robbery and the killing, whether the latter be prior or
subsequent to the former or whether both crimes be committed at the same time. [35]
In his own testimony, appellant Julian Solamillo placed himself squarely at the crime scene when
the victim was attacked:
Q: So what happened at the time this Guiroy was scolding this Eddie Trumata and Edgardo Ebarle?
A After that, Mr. Guiroy fed his cat and he was murmuring and talking so many words while feeding
his cat.
Q What was his position?
A He was sitting.
Q While he was sitting and feeding the cat and still murmuring to the two, what happened?
A Eddie hit him.
Q Hit him with his fist or what?
A With a piece of bakawan.
xxx
Q After he was hit on the head, what happened to Mr. Guiroy?
A He fell.
Q What happened next when he was already there down?
A Guiroy stood up and there was an exchange of blows with Trumata.
Q While they were exchanging blows with Trumata, what did this Edgardo Ebarle do?
A Edgardo Ebarle got a bolo and hacked Mr. Guiroy.
Q Can you still recall how many times he hacked Mr. Guiroy?
A I dont remember anymore because I dont know what to do at that time.
Q After mauling or the hitting of the bakawan and bolo of Mr. Guiroy, what happened to Mr. Guiroy?
A He died.[36]
While Edgardo Ebarle and Eddie Trumata were attacking the victim, appellant Julian Solamillo did
nothing nor sought help to stop them. Instead, he admitted taking some of the money:
Q You said they took money, correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q Where did they take the money? From where?
A From the drawer.
Q What about you?
A I was able to get or pick-up money scattered on the floor.
Q Why did you pick-up the money?
A Because I dont have money for my fare and because I was told by them that, You will escape
because you will be included in this incident.
Q How much money did you get?
A P995.00.
Q You just picked the money according to you?
A I just picked it up on the floor because the money were scattered on the floor.[37]
The rule is well-established that whenever homicide has been committed as a consequence of or
on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part as principals in the robbery shall also be held
guilty as principals of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide whether or not they actually
participated in the killing, unless it clearly appears that they endeavored to prevent the homicide. [38]
Appellant Julian Solamillo justifies his taking the money because he needed it for his fare. Such an
excuse is ridiculous and self-serving. By his own account, Edgardo Ebarle and Eddie Trumata were the
ones who killed the victim. If this were so, why did he leave the bakery immediately after the
incident?And why did he proceed to Dumaguete City to surrender? His conduct is certainly inconsistent
with rational human behavior. For, if he were really guilt-free, he should have reported the incident to
the authorities instead of taking the money and fleeing to Dumaguete City.
Julian insists that he did not participate in killing the victim and that he could not have prevented it
since the other accused threatened to kill him if he interfered.[39] But he failed to show that the threat
was of such character as to leave him no opportunity for escape or to prevent the homicide. Accordingly
and considering his self-admitted participation in the robbery, he is liable for the complex crime of
robbery with homicide.
However, the trial court erred in appreciating against appellants the aggravating circumstances that
the crime was committed: (a) by a band; (b) with evident premeditation; (c) with deliberate cruelty; and
(d) with treachery.
The trial court declared that the crime was committed by a band because there were four (4)
persons who committed the offense.[40] Paragraph 6, Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended,
provides:

Art. 14. Aggravating circumstances. The following are aggravating circumstances:

xxx

6. That the crime be committed in the nighttime or in an uninhabited place, or by a band, whenever
such circumstances may facilitate the commission of the offense.

Whenever more than three armed malefactors shall have acted together in the commission of an
offense, it shall be deemed to have been committed by a band.

This aggravating circumstance requires that there should be at least four persons who commit the
crime, all of whom should be armed. Even if there are four offenders, but only three or less are armed,
it is not a band. Here, there is no evidence that all four accused were armed at the time of the
perpetration of the crime. Hence, this circumstance cannot be appreciated against the appellants.
For evident premeditation to be considered as an aggravating circumstance, it must be shown that
the execution of the criminal act was preceded by cool thought and reflection upon the resolution to
carry out the criminal plan.[41] The requisites of evident premeditation are:

(1) the time the accused decided to commit the crime;

(2) an overt act manifestly indicating that he clung to his determination; and
(3) sufficient lapse of time between the decision and the execution to allow the accused to
reflect upon the consequence of his act. [42]

When it is not shown how and when the plan to kill was hatched or what time had elapsed before
it was carried out, evident premeditation cannot be considered.[43] Here, we cannot discern from the
records the presence of the foregoing essential element.
The trial court held that the crime was committed with deliberate cruelty considering that the victim
suffered twenty-one (21) hack and stab-wounds, contusions and abrasions on the different parts of his
body. The number of wounds is not the criterion for the appreciation of cruelty as an aggravating
circumstance.[44] The mere fact that wounds in excess of what is necessary to cause death were inflicted
upon the body of the victim does not necessarily imply that such wounds were inflicted with cruelty.[45] It
is necessary to show that the accused intentionally and deliberately increased the victim's suffering. In
this case, there is no evidence showing appellants intent to commit such cruelty.
Furthermore, in People vs. Lobitania,[46] we held that treachery is applicable only to crimes against
persons. Inasmuch as robbery with homicide is a crime against property and not against persons,
treachery cannot be validly considered x x x.
Under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 9 of R.A. No. 7659, the
prescribed penalty for robbery with homicide is composed of two indivisible penalties, reclusion
perpetua to death. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the proper penalty to
be imposed upon appellants Liberato Dukduk Solamillo and Julian Solamillo is reclusion perpetua.[47]
Regarding damages, the trial court failed to award civil indemnity to the victims heirs. When death
occurs as a result of a crime, the heirs of the deceased are entitled to the amount of P50,000.00 as
civil indemnity for the death of the victim without need of any evidence or proof of damages. [48]
As to Aleli Guiroys claim that she spent P20,000.00 for her fathers funeral expenses and that there
was at least P20,000.00 in the bakerys secret compartment when the robbery occurred, we find the
same unsubstantiated. In People vs. Abrazaldo,[49] we ruled that to be entitled to the award of actual
damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of loss with a reasonable degree of certainty,
premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence obtainable to the injured party. While the
prosecution failed to present any receipt to prove the claim for funeral expenses, however, we are
aware that funeral expenses were incurred by the family of the deceased.
Temperate damages, in lieu of actual damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some
pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot be proved with certainty. [50] In Abrazaldo, we
computed temperate damages at P25,000.00, or one-half of the current indemnity ex delicto, which is
fixed at P50,000.00. We award the same in this case.
As for the award of P200,000.00 as exemplary damages, we find the same to be unjustified. Article
2230 of the Civil Code provides that in criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of civil liability
may be imposed only when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating
circumstances.Considering the absence of any aggravating circumstance in the commission of the
crime charged, no exemplary damages may be awarded. And since there are no exemplary damages,
the award of P20,000.00 as attorneys fee is also deleted.
As to the trial courts award of moral damages in the amount of P500,000.00, we find the same to
be excessive. In similar cases,[51] we awarded the victims heirs the amount of P50,000.00 as moral
damages. For verily, moral damages are not intended to enrich the victims heirs; rather they are
awarded to allow them to obtain means for diversion that could serve to alleviate their moral and
psychological sufferings.[52]
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 1, Isabela, Basilan, in Criminal
Case No. 2099, is AFFIRMED but with modification.
Appellants Liberato Dukduk Solamillo and Julian Solamillo are found GUILTY of the crime of
ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE, and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION
PERPETUA. They are ordered to pay the heirs of the late Alexander Guiroy (a) P50,000.00, as civil
indemnity; (b) P50,000.00, as moral damages; and (c) P25,000.00, as temperate damages.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio,
Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Austria-Martinez, J., on official leave.

SECTION 6. Duty of Court to Inform Accused of his Right to Counsel.

[A.M. No. MTJ-99-1231. March 17, 2004]

ANTONIO GAMAS and FLORENCIO SOBRIO, complainants, vs. JUDGE


ORLANDO A. OCO, in his capacity as presiding judge of Municipal Trial
Court, Polomolok, South Cotabato and PNP SPO4 WILLIE ADULACION in
his capacity as public prosecutor of MTC-Polomolok,
South Cotabato, respondents.

DECISION
CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a complaint for grave misconduct and gross ignorance of the law filed by complainants
Antonio Gamas and Florencio Sobrio (complainants) against Judge Orlando A. Oco (respondent
judge), former[1] Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial
Court, Polomolok, South Cotabato (MTC Polomolok) and SPO4
Willie Adulacion (respondent Adulacion), a police prosecutor in the MTC Polomolok.

The Facts

In their Complaint (Complaint) and supporting affidavits, complainants allege that they are the
accused in a case for theft[2] which, at the time material to this case, was pending in the sala of
respondent judge. As respondent judge had issued warrants for their arrest, complainants on 3 October
1996 went to the MTC Polomolok to post bail. Complainants allege that respondent Adulacion enticed
them to plead guilty to the charge, apply for probation, and thus avoid imprisonment.
Respondent Adulacion, who had allegedly prepared a draft decision embodying his suggestion,
conferred with respondent judge, and handed the draft decision to respondent judge. After reading the
document, respondent judge signed it, told complainants O, plead guilty man kamo (O, youre pleading
guilty), and handed the document to a clerk. Respondent judge told the clerk to read the contents of
the decision to complainants and to instruct them on what to do.The clerk read the contents of the
document to complainants and asked them to sign it. Complainants signed the document upon
respondent Adulacionsassurance that once the police apprehend the rest of the accused, [3] the police
will revive the case and respondent Adulacion will present complainants as star witnesses.
Complainants later found out that what they signed was an Order [4] (3 October 1996 Order) finding
them guilty of theft and sentencing them each to imprisonment for six (6) months and one (1) day.
Finding the proceedings highly irregular, complainants sought the assistance of a lawyer. Upon
motion of complainants counsel, respondent judge vacated the 3 October 1996 Order, ostensibly on
the ground that complainants had entered improvident guilty pleas. Respondent judge scheduled
complainants re-arraignment on 2 February 1997.
In the present complaint, complainants contend that respondent judge is administratively liable for
rendering judgment against them without the benefit of an arraignment and in violation of their right to
be represented by counsel.[5]
In his Answer (Answer), respondent judge denied complainants allegations regarding the alleged
procedural irregularities in the issuance of the 3 October 1996 Order. According to respondent judge,
the following transpired in his sala on 3 October 1996:
2. On [the] session day [of October 3, 1996,] prosecutor Willie Adulacion with two men who
turned out to be complainants, Antonio Gamas and Florencio Sobrio approached me. It
was Adulacion who talked. He stated that these two have long pending warrants of arrest and they
cannot afford to file P10,000.00 bail. They were charged of theft of corn worth P4,500.00.
x x x They were caught with two others who are their relatives hauling 3 or 4 tricycle loads of corn
cabs [sic]. Adulacion said that Gamas and Sobrioasked him to propose to the judge
that Sobrio and Gamas would plead guilty, but be meted the most minimum penalty, allowed
probation and after which they be released [on] their own recognizance because they cannot file
their bailbonds.

3. Their predicament at that moment if I cannot attend to them immediately was that
Mr. Adulacion [would] have to lock them in jail because they surrendered. Gamas and Sobrio were
lucky that instant because there was a lull in my proceedings so they were able to see me.

4. As soon as Adulacion ha[d] articulated his piece of talk, in the hearing distance
of Gamas and Sobrio because we were face to face[,] I asked them if what Adulacion said was true
and they replied yes.

5. That instant I knew that Sobrio and Gamas wanted things done instantly so they will not be
locked in jail so I ordered for the records from my staff. I read thoroughly while the three waited
across the table, seated.

6. I gathered from my readings that [the] tricycle drivers with their tricycles were apprehended
in flagrante delicto carrying corn cabs [sic] right in the corn field of Dole. I asked why there were
released with the tricycles inspite of this apprehension but I did not get satisfactory answer from
any of the 3. x x x

7. For me to instantly respond to their plea that they be allowed to plead guilty, meted the minimum
sentence, allowed probation and pending probation they be released on recognizance, they will
solve their very immediate problem of being locked in jail because they had surrendered
to Adulacion and they had no ready bails. Knowing the course of action they wanted, I begun
discoursing on their rights as accused. I told them of their right to counsel, to be given free of
charge if they cannot afford to solicit services of one, to confront the witnesses and cross examine
and because they had voluntarily articulated the desire to plead guilty, I estimated to them the
probable penalty. I also told them that they have [a] right to apply for probation but pending action
they may be required to file bailbonds but they begged that they be allowed to plead guilty but
released pending probation proceedings.

8. After the discourse I read from them that they would like to really plead guilty and wanted
instant action so that they will not be in jail. As called for by the situation I arraigned them. I read
to them in the dialect they understand the accusation and informed them [of] the nature of the
evidence arrayed but they pleaded guilty, always begging that they be sentenced with the most
minimum penalty, allowed probation and released immediately in their recognizance.

xxx

11. [Thus], there was arraignment and that their plea of guilt was voluntary.

12. I wrote the decision in long hand in their very presence then handed it to the typist who typed it;
then I read silently what the typist typed and satisfied that what I wrote was correctly typed I signed
[the 3 October 1996 Order], then required my court interpreter to read the whole decision in the
language they know. I looked while the interpreter was reading. They looked satisfied that what the
interpreter was reading corresponded with what they proposed and what we discussed. After the
reading, Gamasand Sobrio signed the decision.

13. It was I who wrote that decision, Mr. Adulacion cannot write that.
14. So it is clear that before deciding I arraigned Gamas and Sobrio upon their demand for instant
solution to their predicament. Before arraignment I counselled them of their rights and I even
warned them the exact penalty I will give them. There was no lawyer in attendance but the lawyer
was their problem. I heard them saying that since they were caught carrying the corn, a lawyer
would not have much use, moreover they expressed they have no money to pay for a lawyer. I
argued that I can give them a PAO lawyer but they insisted they plead guilty so that all will get
done without jailing them that instant.[6]

Respondent judge claims that complainants assailed the validity of the 3 October 1996 Order to
avoid serving their sentences as they had allegedly violated the terms of their probation by failing to
report to their probation officer. Respondent judge maintains that there was no irregularity in the
issuance of the 3 October 1996 Order. Respondent judge adds that he decided to set aside his ruling
merely out of compassion for complainants.[7]
We referred this matter to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court
of Polomolok, South Cotabato (RTC Polomolok) for investigation, report and recommendation.

The Investigating Judges Findings

On 7 December 2000, Executive Judge Eddie Roxas (Executive Judge Roxas) of


RTC Polomolok submitted his Report (Report), finding respondent judge liable for simple neglect of
duty and recommending the imposition of P10,000 fine on the latter. The Report reads in pertinent
parts:

The basic issues to be resolved in this case x x x are as follows:

1. Whether or not complainants waived their right to counsel;


2. Whether or not complainants were properly arraigned; and
3. Whether or not the Order dated October 3, 1996 was prepared by Prosecutor Adulacion.

To resolve the first issue, it is noteworthy to state that in all criminal prosecution[s], the accused
shall be entitled to be present and defend in person and by counsel at every stage of the
proceedings, that is from the arraignment to the promulgation of the judgment (Sec. 1(c), Rule 115,
Rules of Court). In relation to such statutory right of the accused, the Court has been given the
correlative duty to inform the accused of his right to counsel as expressly provided under Section 6
of Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. The right to be assisted by counsel is deemed so important that it
has become a constitutional right and it is so implemented that under our rules of procedure it is not
enough for the court to apprise an accused of his right to have an attorney, but it is essential that the
court should assign one de oficio [counsel] for him if he so desires and he is poor, or grant him a
reasonable time to procure an attorney of his own.

xxx

In the case under investigation, it is clear that the herein complainants were not assisted by counsel
when they were allegedly arraigned by the Respondent Judge. Nowhere in the records of the case
[was it shown] that the said complainants were indeed assisted by their own counsel of choice, or a
counsel de oficio from the time they were allegedly arraigned up to the promulgation of their
sentence. x x x

[S]uch fact has been admitted by the Respondent Judge, however, he alleged that the right to
counsel had already been waived by the complainants after they were apprised of the said right.

While it is true that the complainants were informed of their right to have counsel, however, it is
not enough that said complainants be simply informed of their right to counsel; they should also be
asked whether they want to avail themselves of one and should be told that they can hire a counsel
of their own choice if they desire to have one, or that one can be provided to them at their own
request.

xxx

[I]t is x x clear from the investigation conducted that the herein complainants did not satisfactorily
waived their right to counsel, for although they were mechanically informed and inadequately
explained of the same, its not a guaranty that they have voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently
waived such right. One cannot waive a right if in the first place he does not know and understand
such right. In that instance, there is no valid waiver to speak of.

xxx

With regard to the second issue, the undersigned Investigating Judge cannot be persuaded that on
the very basic procedure alone, involving just the mechanical process of arraignment outlined in
Section 1 of Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, there was the necessary degree of compliance by the
Respondent Judge. Other considerations reveal how flawed the supposed arraignment actually
was. For instance, there is no showing that the complainants were afforded with counsel, nor
furnished a copy of the Amended Complaint with the list of witnesses against them in order that
they may duly prepare and comply with their responsibilities.

xxx

Not frequently indeed, an accused pleads guilty in the hope of a lenient treatment, or upon a bad
advice or promises of the authorities or parties of a lighter penalty should he admit guilt or express
remorse. It is the duty of the Judge, like the herein Respondent Judge, to see to it that he does not
labor under these mistaken impression. Failure or omission on the part of the Respondent Judge to
exercise caution against the demands of sheer speed in disposing of cases, whether voluntarily or
involuntarily, should not only be censured but also condemned. [A] Court cannot, therefore, hold
liberty and life forfeit, no matter how despicable the offender when effective protection for his
basic rights were denied because of poverty or ignorance.

For failure of the Respondent Judge to strictly follow and observe the mandatory provisions of Rule
116 of the Rules of Court, it can therefore be gainfully said that the herein complainants were not
properly arraigned last October 3, 1996.

Anent the last issue, the complainants failed to adduce sufficient evidence that it was indeed Police
Prosecutor Willie Adulacion who prepared the Order dated 3 October 1996.The Respondent Judge
adequately proved that it was he who wrote the subject Order duly substantiated and corroborated
by the testimonies of the other witnesses. Such proof has never been controverted by the
complainants. Thus, the complainants claim that it was Police Prosecutor Willie Adulacion who
prepared the subject Order is without merit for [utter] lack of basis in truth and in fact.[8]

On 31 January 2001, we referred the Report to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for
evaluation, report and recommendation.

The OCAs Evaluation and Recommendation

In its Memorandum dated 11 May 2001, the OCA, while agreeing with the findings of Executive
Judge Roxas, finds respondent judge liable not for mere simple neglect of duty but for gross ignorance
of the law. Accordingly, the OCA recommends that respondent judge be fined P20,000. The OCA
explains:

[R]espondent judge showed his ignorance not only of the scope of his authority to arraign the
complainants but also of the procedure to follow in conducting an arraignment.Moreover,
respondent failed to properly apprise complainants of their right to counsel and to provide them
with counsel de oficio particularly during the arraignment, if they do not have a counsel by reason
of their poverty. This is a fundamental constitutional precept which respondent Judge is expected to
know. Where, as in this case, the law involved is simple and elementary, lack of conversance
therewith constitutes gross ignorance of the law.[9]

The Ruling of the Court

The Court finds the recommendation of the OCA well-taken.


Respondent Judge Failed to Properly Apprise
Complainants of their Right to Counsel

The Constitution mandates that [I]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall x x x enjoy the right
to be heard by himself and counsel.[10] Indeed, the accused has a right to representation by counsel
from the custodial investigation all the way up to the appellate proceedings. [11] At the arraignment stage,
Section 6 of Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

SEC. 6. Duty of court to inform accused of his right to counsel. Before arraignment, the court shall
inform the accused of his right to counsel and ask him if he desires to have one. Unless the accused
is allowed to defend himself in person or has employed counsel of his choice, the court must assign
a counsel de oficio to defend him. (Emphasis supplied)

Section 6 of Rule 116 means that:

[W]hen a defendant appears [at the arraignment] without [an] attorney, the court has four important
duties to comply with: 1 It must inform the defendant that it is his right to have [an] attorney before
being arraigned; 2 After giving him such information the court must ask him if he desires the aid of
attorney; 3 If he desires and is unable to employ attorney, the court must assign [an] attorney
de oficio to defend him; and 4 If the accused desires to procure an attorney of his own the court
must grant him a reasonable time therefor.[12]

Compliance with these four duties is mandatory.[13] The only instance when the court can arraign
an accused without the benefit of counsel is if the accused waives such right and the court, finding the
accused capable, allows him to represent himself in person. However, to be a valid waiver, the accused
must make the waiver voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.[14] In determining whether the accused
can make a valid waiver, the court must take into account all the relevant circumstances, including the
educational attainment of the accused. In the present case, however, respondent judge contends that
complainants waived their right to counsel and insisted on their immediate arraignment.
After reviewing the records and taking into account the circumstances obtaining in this case, we
find that respondent judge did not properly apprise complainants of their right to counsel prior to their
arraignment. Consequently, there was no basis for complainants alleged waiver of such right.
In his Answer, respondent judge does not deny that when he arraigned complainants, no lawyer
assisted the complainants. However, respondent judge asserted that the attendance of a lawyer was
their (complainants) problem. Respondent judge stated that before arraigning complainants, he gave
a discourse [of] their rights as accused. Respondent judge also stated that since the police caught
complainants in flagrante delicto, complainants told him a lawyer would not have much use.
Respondent judge further stated that complainants expressed that they have no money to pay for a
lawyer. Respondent judge informed complainants he can give them a PAO lawyer if they so
desired. However, respondent judge did not appoint a PAO lawyer despite being informed by
complainants that they could not afford a lawyer.
These do not amount to compliance with Section 6 of Rule 116. Respondent judge has the duty to
insure that there is no violation of the constitutional right of the accused to counsel. Respondent judge
is grossly mistaken in saying that securing a lawyer was their (complainants) problem. Once the
accused informs the judge that he cannot afford a lawyer and the court has not allowed the accused to
represent himself, or the accused is incapable of representing himself, the judge has the duty to appoint
a counsel de oficio to give meaning and substance to the constitutional right of the accused to counsel.
Respondent judge knew that complainants are mere tricycle drivers. Respondent judge could not
have expected complainants to be conversant with the rules on criminal procedure. [15] Respondent
judge should not only have followed Section 6 of Rule 116 to the letter, but should also have ascertained
that complainants understood the import of the proceedings. Respondent judge should not have
proceeded with complainants arraignment until he had ascertained that complainants waiver of their
right to counsel was made voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently and that they were capable of
representing themselves. As well observed by Executive Judge Roxas:

[Respondent judge] is not only duty-bound to tell the complainants the right to which they are
entitled, he must also explain their effects in practical terms, and in a language the complainants
fairly understand. In other words, the right of the complainants to be informed of their right to have
a counsel implies a correlative obligation on the part of the Respondent Judge to explain and
contemplates an effective communication that results in understanding what is conveyed. Since the
right to be informed implies comprehension, the degree of explanation required will necessarily
vary, depending upon the education, intelligence and other relevant personal circumstances of the
complainants. Suffice it to say that a simpler and more lucid explanation is needed when the subject
is unlettered as in this particular case. Short of this, there is a denial of the right as it cannot truly be
said that the herein complainants have been informed of their rights to counsel. [16] (Emphasis
supplied)

The unfortunate but expected result of respondent judges failure to comply strictly with Section 6
of Rule 116 surfaced during the investigation of this case.Complainants uniformly testified that they
were unaware of the meaning and consequence of their guilty pleas. Thus,
complainant Gamas testified:
[ATTY. OCO]:
Q You did not want to plead guilty, of course?
[ANTONIO GAMAS]:
A At that time we do not know what plead guilty is. It is only now that I am aware.

xxx

Q When you arrived there at the office of Adulacion, what did Adulacion tell you, if he told you anything?
A He said that since you have no cashbond, you just pleaded guilty since you loaded stolen items.
Q So what was your reaction when Adulacion told you that?
A We were dumbfounded.
Q So you have no reaction at all when Adulacion told that you will plead guilty because you dont
have cashbond?
A Nothing, because it was only lately that I came to know the meaning of plead guilty.

xxx

Q You did not understand the word plead guilty?


A I do not know what is plead guilty.
Q You did not ask Adulacion, what is that all about, Sir?
A I did not ask anymore, because he also added that he will give us lighter sentence.
Q So because of that promise of Adulacion, you conformed with his suggestion that you will plead
guilty?
A Because he said we are supposed to be star witnesses and he will apprehend the three others, so
we pleaded guilty.
Q The fact that you pleaded guilty, you were in conformity to the suggestion of Willie Adulacion?
A We cannot do anything at that time, we were dumbfounded.[17] (Emphasis supplied)
Complainant Sobrio similarly testified:
[ATTY. OCO]:
Q What was the story that transpired between you and Adulacion?
[FLORENCIO SOBRIO]:
A Since we dont have any cashbond, we will plead guilty.
COURT:

xxx

Q So what was your answer if there was an answer?


A I said, What is plead guilty, I dont understand that?
Q Did Willie Adulacion explain to you what is plead guilty after you inquired from him?
A No.
Q After you asked him, what was the answer of Adulacion when you asked him what is that plead guilty?
A He said that we apply for probation so that he can help us.
Q He did not explain to you that by pleading guilty is admitting the charge against you?
A No.[18] (Emphasis supplied)
These testimonies underscore the need for trial court judges to comply strictly with Section 6 of
Rule 116. That the accused, like complainants, insist on their arraignment without representation is no
reason for a judge to accede readily to their wishes. A judge has the duty to protect the accused in their
rights, even against their wishes, when it is clear, as in this case, that they are not in a position to validly
exercise or waive those rights. As we had occasion to observe:

[E]ven the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of the law, particularly
in the rules of procedure, and, without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but
because he does not know how to establish his innocence. And this can happen more easily to
persons who are ignorant or uneducated. It is for this reason that the right to be assisted by counsel
is deemed so important that it has become a constitutional right and it is so implemented that under
our rules of procedure it is not enough for the Court to apprise an accused of his right to have an
attorney, it is not enough to ask him whether he desires the aid of an attorney, but it is essential that
the court should assign one de oficio for him if he so desires and he is poor or grant him a
reasonable time to procure an attorney of his own.[19] (Emphasis supplied)

Indeed, by subsequently vacating his 3 October 1996 Order, respondent judge tacitly admits that
complainants were in no position to represent themselves during their arraignment, causing them to
enter guilty pleas improvidently.
Respondent Judges Arraignment of
Complainants Highly Irregular

Section 1(a), Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure states:

Arraignment and plea; how made. The accused must be arraigned before the court where the
complaint or information was filed or assigned for trial. The arraignment shall be made in open
court by the judge or clerk by furnishing the accused with a copy of the complaint or information,
reading the same in the language or dialect known to him, and asking him whether he pleads guilty
or not guilty. The prosecution may call at the trial witnesses other than those named in the
complaint or information.

We have explained the rationale, requirements, and compliance of this rule in this manner:

[S]ection 1(a) of Rule 116 requires that the arraignment should be made in open court by the judge
himself or by the clerk of court [1] furnishing the accused a copy of the complaint or information
with the list of witnesses stated therein, then [2] reading the same in the language or dialect that is
known to him, and [3] asking him what his plea is to the charge. The requirement that the reading
be made in a language or dialect that the accused understands and knows is a mandatory
requirement, just as the whole of said Section 1 should be strictly followed by trial courts. This the
law affords the accused by way of implementation of the all-important constitutional mandate
regarding the right of an accused to be informed of the precise nature of the accusation leveled at
him and is, therefore, really an avenue for him to be able to hoist the necessary defense in rebuttal
thereof. It is an integral aspect of the due process clause under the Constitution. [20]

We subscribe to Executive Judge Roxas finding that respondent judge similarly failed to comply
with the requirements of Section 1(a) of Rule 116. Complainants deny respondent judges claim that he
arraigned complainants by read[ing] to them [the information] in the dialect they understand and
inform[ing] them [of] the nature of the evidence arrayed [against them]. [21] However, there is no
disputing that respondent judge failed to furnish complainants a copy of the information with the list of
the witnesses.
The procedural steps laid down in Section 1(a) of Rule 116 are not empty rituals that a judge can
take lightly. Each step constitutes an integral part of that crucial stage in criminal litigation where the
issues are joined x x x and without which the proceedings cannot advance further.[22] Respondent judge
may have genuinely desired to spare complainants the travails of being detained in jail, thus the rush
in arraigning them, accepting their guilty pleas, imposing a light sentence, and granting them probation.
While well-intentioned, such conduct unjustifiably short-circuited the mandatory arraignment procedure
in Section 1(a) of Rule 116.
Respondent Judges Acts and Omissions
Constitute Gross Ignorance of the Law

The rule is that when the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it
constitutes gross ignorance of the law.[23] The provisions of the Constitution on the right of the accused
to counsel, and of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure on the requirements for the arraignment
of an accused, are basic. Every judge should know the fundamental substantive and procedural
requirements on arraignment and right to counsel.
By holding complainants arraignment in the manner he conducted it, respondent judge is liable for
this administrative transgression. It may very well be that respondent judge knew the substantive and
procedural rules in question. What renders him liable is that he acted as if he did not.

On the Appropriate Imposable Penalty

Under Section 11(A), in relation to Section 8(8), of Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as amended by
A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is punishable by:

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 the office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not
exceeding six (6) months; or

3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00.

This schedule of penalties under A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, which took effect on 1 October 2001, does not
apply retroactively.[24] Accordingly, we sustain the OCAs recommendation that respondent judge be
required to pay a fine of P20,000, a penalty we have meted in similar administrative cases involving
gross ignorance of the law.[25]
The Court has no Jurisdiction Over
Respondent Adulacion

We refrain from passing upon the complaint against respondent Adulacion, as he is neither a
member of the Bar[26] nor a judiciary employee. This Courts administrative jurisdiction extends only to
members of the bar and over all courts and their personnel. [27] However, the dismissal is without
prejudice to any action complainants may wish to file against respondent Adulacion before the
appropriate body.
WHEREFORE, we find respondent Orlando A. Oco, former Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial
Court, Polomolok, South Cotabato, GUILTY of gross ignorance of the law. Accordingly, we FINE
respondent Orlando A. Oco P20,000, to be taken from his withheld retirement benefits. The complaint
against respondent Willie Adulacion is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Ynares-Santiago, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Panganiban, J., on official leave.

SECTION 7. Appointment of Counsel de Oficio.

PUBLIC ATTORNEYS OFFICE, G.R. Nos. 154297-300


MAXIMO B. USITA, JR. and
WILFREDO C. ANDRES,
Petitioners,
Present:

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
- versus - CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
REYES, and
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN,
SPECIAL DIVISION,
Respondent. Promulgated:
February 15, 2008

X -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari alleging that the Sandiganbayan, Special Division,
committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the
Resolutions dated May 28, 2002 and June 11, 2002 retaining petitioners, Atty. Maximo B. Usita,
Jr. and Atty. Wilfredo C. Andres of the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), as counsels de oficio of
then accused President Joseph Estrada and his son, Jose Jinggoy Estrada.

The facts are as follows:


On March 15 and 18, 2002, Atty. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, Chief Public Attorney of PAO
personally appeared before respondent Special Division of the Sandiganbayan [1] to request the
relief of the appearance of PAO as de oficio counsel for accused President Joseph Estrada and
JoseEstrada in their criminal cases before the Sandigabayan. However, the request was denied.

On May 8, 2002, the Chief Public Attorney filed an Urgent and Ex-Parte Motion to be
Relieved as Court-Appointed Counsel with the Special Division of the Sandiganbayan, praying
that she be relieved of her duties and responsibilities as counsel de oficio for the said accused on
the ground that she had a swelling workload consisting of administrative matters and that the
accused are not indigent persons; hence, they are not qualified to avail themselves of the services
of PAO.

On May 9, 2002, respondent Court found the reasons of the Chief Public Attorney to be
plausible and relieved the Chief Public Attorney as counsel de oficio of former President Joseph
Estrada and Mayor Jose Estrada.

On May 14, 2002, the remaining eight PAO lawyers filed an Ex-Parte Motion To Be
Relieved As Court-Appointed Counsels with respondent Court on the ground that the accused,
former President Joseph Estrada and Jose Estrada, are not indigents; therefore, they are not
qualified to avail themselves of the services of PAO.

On May 28, 2002, respondent Court issued a Resolution denying the motion, but retaining
two of the eight PAO lawyers, namely, the petitioners Atty. Usita, Jr. and Atty. Andres. The
pertinent portion of the Resolution reads:

. . . There being no compelling and sufficient reasons to abandon the Courts


previous rulings, the instant motion is hereby DENIED. While it is true that a similar
motion filed by the PAO Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta was granted per
Courts Resolution of May 9, 2002, the rationalization advanced by Atty. Rueda was
found meritorious by the Court in that there was unexpected upsurge in her
administrative workload as head of the office including the administration and
supervision of more or less 1,000 PAO lawyers and 700 staff nationwide and many
other functions which require her immediate attention and undivided time.

Nonetheless, considering that there are eight (8) de oficio counsels from the
Public Attorneys Office (PAO), the Court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, deems
it proper to reduce their number and retain only two (2) of them, namely: Atty. Wilfredo
C. Andres and Atty. Maximo B. Usita to continue their duties and responsibilities as
counsels de oficio for accused Joseph and Jose Jinggoy Estrada.[2]

The retained lawyers of PAO joined the four Court-appointed counsels from the private
sector, namely, Prospero Crescini, Justice Manuel Pamaran, Irene Jurado and Noel Malaya.

On June 4, 2002, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated May
28, 2002.

In a Resolution dated June 10, 2002, respondent denied the motion for reconsideration,
thus:
xxx xxx xxx
It appearing that the ground raised by the movants PAO lawyers are mere
rehashes/reiterations of their previous arguments which the Court finds to be not valid
justification for them to be relieved, either temporarily or permanently of their duties
and responsibilities as counsels de oficio in these cases, the instant motion in hereby
DENIED.[3]

Hence, this petition for certiorari alleging grave abuse of discretion by respondent in
rendering the Resolutions dated May 28, 2002 and June 10, 2002.

On September 21, 2004, PAO filed a Manifestation and Compliance which informed the
Court that petitioners Atty. Usita and Atty. Andres were appointed as Assistant City Prosecutors
of the Quezon City Prosecutors Office sometime in August 2002, and that PAO is left as the lone
petitioner in this case.

The issue is whether or not respondent committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the subject Resolutions retaining two PAO lawyers to act
as counsels de oficio for the accused who are not indigent persons.

PAO contends that it is undeniable that in retaining its two PAO lawyers as counsels de
oficio of former President Estrada and Jose Estrada, respondent Court relied upon the provisions
of Sec. 7, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, thus:

Sec. 7. Appointment of counsel de oficio.The Court, considering the gravity of


the offense and the difficulty of the questions that may arise, shall appoint as counsel de
oficio such members of the bar in good standing, who, by reason of their experience
and ability, can competently defend the accused.

PAO, however, submits that the power of respondent to appoint and retain PAO lawyers
as counsels de oficio is limited by Sec. 20 of Letter of Implementation (LOI) No. 20
dated December 31, 1972 and Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1725 dated September 26, 1980,
thus:

LOI No. 20

Sec. 20. The Citizens Legal Assistance Office shall represent, free of charge,
indigent persons mentioned in Republic Act No. 6035, or the immediate members of
their family, in all civil, administrative, and criminal cases where after due investigation
the interest of justice will be served thereby, except agrarian reform cases as defined by
Republic Act 3844, as amended, which shall be handled by the Bureau of Agrarian
Legal Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and such cases as are now
handled by the Department of Labor.

PD No. 1725

WHEREAS, the Citizens Legal Assistance Office as the law office of the
Government of the Republic of the Philippines for indigent and low-income persons,
performs a vital role in the implementation of the legal aid program of the State, in
upholding the rule of law, in the protection and safeguarding of the institutional and
statutory rights of the citizenry, and in the efficient and speedy administration of justice.

The Revised Administrative Code of 1987 renamed the Citizens Legal Assistance Office
as the Public Attorneys Office and retained its powers and functions. Section 14, Chapter 5, Title
III, Book V of the said Code provides:

Sec. 14. Public Attorneys Office (PAO). The Citizens Legal Assistance Office
(CLAO) is renamed Public Attorneys Office (PAO). It shall exercise the powers and
functions as are now provided by law for the Citizens Legal Assistance Office or may
hereafter be provided by law.

In the implementation of the foregoing provisions of law, PAO issued Memorandum


Circular No. 5, Series of 1997, as amended by Memorandum Circular No. 12, Series of 2001, and
subsequently by Memorandum Circular No. 18, Series of 2002, defining who are indigent persons
qualified to avail themselves of the services of PAO, thus:

Section 3. Indigency Test. Taking into consideration recent surveys on the


amount needed by an average Filipino to 1) buy its food consumption basket and b) pay
for its household and personal expenses, the following shall be considered indigent
persons:

1. Those residing in Metro Manila whose family income does not


exceed P14,000.00 a month;

2. Those residing in other cities whose family income does not


exceed P13,000.00 a month;

3. Those residing in all other places whose family income does not
exceed P12,000.00 a month.

The term family income as herein employed shall be understood to refer to the
gross income of the litigant and that of his or her spouse, but shall not include the
income of the other members of the family.

PAO states that the Statement of Assets and Liabilities attached to the records of the cases
of the accused show that they were not qualified to avail themselves of the services of PAO, since
they could afford the services of private counsels of their own choice. It noted that the wife of
former President Estrada had an income exceeding P14,000.

PAO argues that the only exception when it can appear on behalf of a non-indigent client
is when there is no available lawyer to assist such client in a particular stage of the case, that is,
during arraignment or during the taking of the direct testimony of any prosecution witness subject
to cross-examination by the private counsel on record. The appearance of PAO is only provisional
in those instances.
PAO asserts that the sole reliance of respondent on Sec. 7, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules
of Criminal Procedure is improper. Respondent should have not only considered the character of
PAO lawyers as members of the Bar, but especially their mandate to serve only indigent
persons. In so doing, the contradiction in the exercise of PAOs duties and responsibilities could
have been avoided.

PAO asserts that while its lawyers are also aware of their duties under Rule 14.02 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility,[4] PAO lawyers are limited by their mandate as government
lawyers.

Hence, PAO submits that the subject Resolutions of respondent are not in accordance with
the mandate of PAO and affect the rendition of effective legal service to a large number of its
deserving clients.

In defense, respondent Special Division of the Sandiganbayan, represented by the Office


of the Special Prosecutor, stated that it did not commit grave abuse of discretion since it did not
act in an arbitrary, capricious and whimsical manner in issuing the subject Resolutions.

It explained that it was facing a crisis when respondent issued the subject Resolutions. At
that time, the accused, former President Joseph Estrada, relieved the services of his counsels on
nationwide television. Subsequently, the counsels of record of co-accused Jose Estrada withdrew,
and both accused were adamant against hiring the services of new counsels because they allegedly
did not believe in and trust the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan had the duty to decide the
cases, but could not proceed with the trial since the accused were not assisted by counsel.

Respondent stated that, bound by its duty to protect the constitutional right of the accused
to be heard by himself and counsel, it exercised its prerogative under Sec. 7, Rule 116 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure,[5] and appointed Chief Public Attorney Persida V. Rueda-
Acosta of the PAO and eight other PAO lawyers, including petitioners, to act as counsels de
oficio for the said accused. As noted earlier, the Chief Public Attorney and six PAO lawyers were
later relieved from such duty, but respondent retained two PAO lawyers as counsels de oficio for
the accused.

Considering the attendant situation at the time of the issuance of the subject Resolutions,
respondent asserts that it did not act in an arbitrary, despotic, capricious or whimsical manner in
issuing the subject Resolutions. In appointing the PAO lawyers to act as counsels for the said
accused, respondent merely acted within the prerogative granted to it by the Rules of Court in
order to protect the constitutional right of the accused to be heard by himself and
counsel. Respondent also merely required petitioners to perform their duty as members of the Bar
and officers of the court to assist the court in the efficient administration of justice.

Grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as
is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, the exercise of the power in an arbitrary
manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility, and it must be so patent or gross as
to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or
to act at all in contemplation of law.[6]
The Court holds that respondent did not gravely abuse its discretion in issuing the subject
Resolutions as the issuance is not characterized by caprice or arbitrariness. At the time of PAOs
appointment, the accused did not want to avail themselves of any counsel; hence, respondent
exercised a judgment call to protect the constitutional right of the accused to be heard by
themselves and counsel during the trial of the cases.

Subsequently, respondent reduced the number of PAO lawyers directed to represent the
accused, in view of the engagement of new counsels de parte, but retained two of the eight PAO
lawyers obviously to meet such possible exigency as the accused again relieving some or all of
their private counsels.

In any event, since these cases of the accused in the Sandiganbayan have been finally
resolved, this petition seeking that PAO, the only remaining petitioner, be relieved as counsel de
oficio therein has become moot.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for being moot.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

SECTION 8. Time for Counsel de Oficio to Prepare for Arraignment.

[G.R. No. L-48373. January 30, 1984.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDUARDO DE OCAMPO


GONZAGA, Defendant-Appellant.

The Solicitor General for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Ramon A. Gonzales, for Defendant-Appellant.

SYLLABUS

1. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; ARRAIGNMENT AND PLEA; IMPROVIDENT


PLEA OF GUILTY A GROUND FOR SETTING ASIDE JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION; CASE AT
BAR. The death sentence under automatic review is hereby set aside on the ground of
improvident guilty plea and the case is ordered remanded to the court a quo for
rearraignment and further proceeding in accordance with law and controlling
jurisprudence, in order that the accused may be arraigned anew in accordance with the
constitutional requirements of fairness and due process to determine the precise degree
of his culpability in order to make certain that the proper penalty is imposed.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED; PURPOSE.


The constitutional rights of the accused are for the protection of the guilty and of
innocent alike. Only the assurance that even the guilty shall be given the benefit of
every constitutional guaranty can the innocent be secure in the same rights. Thus, this
Court has always stressed its constant concern in due observance of the fundamental
requirements of fairness and due process that the most meticulous care be exercised by
the trial court before acceptance of an accuseds plea of guilty in a capital case.

3. REMEDIAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; ARRAIGNMENT AND PLEA; PROCEDURE FOR


ARRAIGNMENT PROVIDED UNDER SECTION 1, RULE 116 OF THE RULES OF COURT; NOT
OBSERVED IN CASE AT BAR. Section 1, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court prescribes that
"the arraignment must be made by the judge or clerk and shall consist in reading the
complaint or information to the defendant and delivering to him a copy thereof, including
a list of witnesses and asking him whether he pleads guilty or not guilty as charged." In
the instant case, records confirm the fact that the accused was not adequately informed
of the nature of the crime imputed against him and the consequences of his plea. Nor
does it appear that the averments in the information, including the qualifying and
aggravating circumstances were explained to him. No dialogue whatsoever transpired
between accused and the trial judge.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; JUDGES SHOULD REFRAIN FROM ACCEPTING WITH ALACRITY AN
ACCUSEDS PLEA OF GUILTY; ESSENCE OF A PLEA OF GUILTY IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL.
In a long line of cases, this Court has repeatedly enjoined trial judges to refrain from
accepting with alacrity an accuseds plea of guilty, for while justice demands a speedy
administration, judges are duty bound to be extra solicitous in seeing to it that when an
accused pleads guilty he understands fully the meaning of his plea and the import of an
inevitable conviction. The essence of a plea of guilty in a criminal trial is that the
accused on arraignment admits his guilt freely, voluntarily and with full knowledge of the
consequences and meaning of his act. If the accused does not clearly and fully
understand the nature of the offense charged, if he is not advised as to the meaning and
effect of the technical language so often used in formal complaints and informations in
qualifying the acts constituting the offense, or if he does not clearly understand the
consequences by way of a heavy and even a capital penalty flowing from his admission
of his guilt of the crime in the precise technical manner and form in which it is charged,
his plea of guilty should not be accepted and if accepted it should not be held to be
sufficient to sustain a conviction.

5. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED; RIGHT TO


COUNSEL; COUNSEL DE OFICIO SHOULD BE AFFORDED OPPORTUNITY TO EXAMINE
RECORDS OF CASE. In capital offenses, the trial judge should give ample opportunity
to the counsel de oficio to examine not only the records of the case but also to acquire
every relevant information on the matter, such as conferring with the accused
adequately so that he may properly, intelligently and effectively represent his interests.
This is but to accord substance to one of the great principles of justice, guaranteed by
the Constitution, which is the right of an accused to be heard by himself and counsel as
a requirement of due process. The enjoyment of such a right would certainly be
viscerated if the counsel of the accused is precluded from knowing fully the facts of his
clients case.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; UNDER SECTION 5, RULE 116 OF THE RULES OF COURT,
REASONABLE TIME IS GIVEN A COUNSEL DE OFICIO TO CONSULT AND PREPARE THE
CASE OF AN ACCUSED; NOT COMPLIED WITH IN THE CASE AT BAR. Under Section 5,
Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, whenever an attorney de oficio is employed or assigned
by the court to defend an accused either at the arraignment or at the trial, he should be
given a reasonable time to consult with the accused and prepare his defense before
proceeding further in the case which should not be less than two (2) hours in case of
arraignment and two (2) days in case of trial. These requirements were not complied
with. After accuseds arraignment on November 8, 1977, the court immediately set the
case for trial the next day, November 9, 1977, disregarding counsel de oficios
manifestation that he be allowed the required two-day period within which to prepare for
trial.

7. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; PEOPLE VS. MAGSI CITED AND APPLIED IN THE CASE AT BAR.
In the recent case of People v. Magsi, the trial court set six hearing dates and in two
earlier instances the herein accused entered a qualified plea of guilty (stating that he
acted out of fear and duress exerted upon him by his co-accused), so much so that at
the fifth hearing the trial court motu proprio changed the accuseds plea of guilty to not
guilty. But at the sixth hearing date, after counsel de oficio manifested the accuseds
wish to be rearraigned and would not offer any qualifying circumstances regarding his
guilty plea, the trial court admitted the guilty plea and forthwith rendered its death
sentence. This Court set aside the conviction and remanded the case for rearraignment
and further proceedings holding that" (R)ecorded proceedings at the first instance on
September 9, 1970 reproduced previously, showed that de oficio counsel Atty. Rivera
and accused were hardly afforded by the Court any opportunity to discuss the case
together, and the qualified plea of guilty resulted from the Courts proddings rather than
from accuseds spontaneous volition," and that" (W)e have consistently enjoined strict
and substantial adherence to our rulings in cases where defendants are charged with
capital offenses. Mere pro-forma appointment of de oficio counsel, who fails to genuinely
protect the interests of the accused, resetting of hearing by the court for alleged
reception of evidence when in fact none was conducted, perfunctory queries addressed
to the accused whether he understands the charges and the gravity of the penalty, are
not sufficient compliance with our injunctions."cralaw virtua1aw library

8. ID.; ID.; ID.; THE RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS VIOLATED WHERE FATE OF ACCUSED
PREDETERMINED; CASE AT BAR. Finally, the fact that immediately after the
prosecution had rested its case in the last hearing held on November 16, 1977, the trial
court read a "ready made" decision of conviction shows that the accused was meted the
death penalty without due process of law. With the perfunctory arraignment of the
accused and the undue haste with which the hearing was held, the Court sees that
accuseds fate was predetermined from the start. Even before the termination of the
hearing, the sentence of death had already been prepared. At the last page of the
transcript of stenographic notes taken by stenographer Luisa S. Golla, a note appears
which states: "NOTE: Sentence already attached to the original records of the case."

DECISION

TEEHANKEE, J.:

The death sentence under automatic review is hereby set aside on the ground of
improvident guilty plea and the case is ordered remanded to the court a quo for
rearraignment and further proceeding in accordance with law and controlling
jurisprudence, in order that the accused may be arraigned anew in accordance with the
constitutional requirements of fairness and due process to determine the precise degree
of his culpability in order to make certain that the proper penalty is imposed.chanrobles
law library : red

In an information dated November 3, 1977, Accused Gonzaga was indicted for the crime
of murder for fatally stabbing with a jungle bolo one Amparo M. Quilatan, allegedly
attended by the aggravating circumstances of "evident premeditation, treachery and
taking advantage of superior strength, deliberately making use of drunkenness or after
having taken liquor, armed with an illegally-possessed 27 inches jungle bolo (accused
has been separately charged for this offense), without due regard to the profession of a
public school teacher." Five days later, or on November 8, 1977, Accused Gonzaga
appeared for arraignment without counsel. The trial court thereupon issued an order
appointing Atty. Crisanto Saruca as counsel de oficio "for the purpose of arraignment
only," Immediately thereafter, Atty. Saruca manifested that the accused was ready for
arraignment and the accused pleaded guilty to the offense charged.chanrobles
virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

The trial court then ordered the presentation of evidence but the prosecution was not
ready for trial. The prosecution witnesses had not been notified because the prosecution
did not expect that the accused would plead guilty and that trial would continue
thereafter. The case was then set for hearing the next day, November 9, 1977, and for
purposes of trial, Attys. Leonardo Rodriguez and Felimon Koh were appointed as
counsels de oficio.

The records of the case, particularly the transcripts of stenographic notes of the
proceedings taken during the hearing, amply show the inordinate haste with which
accused was charged, arraigned and convicted. The information was filed on November
3, 1977. On November 8, 1977, Accused was immediately arraigned and pleaded guilty
to the offense charged with the assistance of a counsel de oficio who had just been
appointed then and there. The case was set for trial the next day, November 9, 1977,
notwithstanding counsel de oficio s request that he be given two days to prepare for
trial 1 The hearing was continued the following day, November 10, 1977, and again on
November 16, 1977. On the hearing of November 16, 1977, after the prosecution had
rested its case, the trial court read the sentence of conviction, as
follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Ang nasawing si Amparo Quilatan ay isang pampamahalaang guro ng Mababang


Paaralan ng Taguig na pataksil na pinatay ng nasasakdal na si Eduardo de Ocampo
Gonzaga, na ginamitan pa ng nakahihigit na lakas, sa dahilang siya ay isang lalaki at
ang nasawi ay isang mahinang babae. Ang nasawi ay hindi man lamang nagkaroon ng
pagkakataon upang maipagtanggol ang kanyang sarili. Ang isang katangiang ikinabigat
ng pangyayaring ito ay ang balak na pagpatay ng nasasakdal laban sa isang mahinang
guro tulad in Amparo Quilatan. Ayon sa Artikulo Blg. 64 ng Binagong Kodigo Penal,
anuman ang bilang at katayuan ng mga nakakabigat na pangyayari, ang Hukuman ang
magpapataw ng pinakamabigat na parusang naaayon sa batas, at isina-alang-alang din
ang Artikulo Blg. 15 ng nasabing Kodigo Penal, na nagsasaad na, ang mga
mapagpipiliang mga pangyayari ay ang mga nakakabigat o nakagagaang pangyayari
ayon sa katayuan o kinalabasan ng krimen at iba pang nauukol sa pagkaganap ng
nasabing krimen, tulad ng kalasingan.

"Isina-alang-alang ng Hukumang ito ang kusang loob na pag-amin ng nasasakdal


alinsunod sa Artikulo 7, Talata 13 ng Binagong Kodigo Penal, subalit matapos niyang
aminin ang sakdal laban sa kanya, at bilang pagtupad sa simulain ng Kataas-taasang
Hukuman ng Pilipinas, na kahit na umamin na ang isang nasasakdal, kailangan din
maghain ng mga katibayan ukol sa sakdal o sa usapin, at iyan ang ipinag-utos ng
Hukuman sa Pampurok na Taga-Usig upang mapatunayan ang mga nakabibigat na
katibayan laban sa kanya.

"SA GAYONG KADAHILANAN, at dahil sa kusang-loob na pag-amin sa pagkakasala, ng


nasasakdal na si Eduardo de Ocampo Gonzaga, napatunayan ng Hukumang ito ng
walang pag-aalinlangan, na siya ay lumabag sa Artikulo 248 ng Binagong Kodigo Penal,
at sa nasasaad sa impormasyon, at siya ay hinahatulan ng parusang KAMATAYAN, at
babayaran din niya ang mga naulila ng nasawi ng halagang P12,000.00; babayaran din
niya ng halagang P10,000.00 bilang bayad pinsala: panibagong P10,000.00 bilang bayad
pinsalang di pamamarisan; at babayaran din niya ang lahat na nagugol ng pamahalaan
sa usaping ito."cralaw virtua1aw library

The constitutional rights of the accused are for the protection of the guilty and of
innocent alike. Only the assurance that even the guilty shall be given the benefit of
every constitutional guaranty can the innocent be secure in the same rights. 2 Thus, this
Court has always stressed its constant concern in due observance of the fundamental
requirements of fairness and due process that the most meticulous care be exercised by
the trial court before acceptance of an accuseds plea of guilty in a capital case. 3 Sec. 1,
Rule 116 of the Rules of Court prescribes that "the arraignment must be made by the
judge or clerk and shall consist in reading the complaint or information to the defendant
and delivering to him a copy thereof, including a list of witnesses and asking him
whether he pleads guilty or not guilty as charged." In the instant case, records confirm
the fact that the accused was not adequately informed of the nature of the crime
imputed against him and the consequences of his plea. Nor does it appear that the
averments in the information, including the qualifying and aggravating circumstances
were explained to him. No dialogue whatsoever transpired between accused and the trial
judge. The transcript of the stenographic notes taken during the arraignment on
November 8, 1977 shows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Atty. Saruca:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Your Honor, the accused is now ready for arraignment.

Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Arraign the accused.

(Accused when arraigned, pleaded guilty to the offense charged.).

Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ORDER

When the accused was arraigned this morning, in pursuance to Section 1, Rule 116, in
relation to Rule 118 of the new Rules of Court, assisted by counsel de oficio, Atty.
Crisanto Saruca, he pleaded guilty.

Wherefore, let a mandatory presentation of evidence be made.

SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library

In a long line of cases, this Court has repeatedly enjoined trial judges to refrain from
accepting with alacrity an accuseds plea of guilty, for while justice demands a speedy
administration, judges are duty bound to be extra solicitous in seeing to it that when an
accused pleads guilty he understands fully the meaning of his plea and the import of an
inevitable conviction. 4 The essence of a plea of guilty in a criminal trial is that the
accused on arraignment admits his guilt freely, voluntarily and with full knowledge of the
consequences and meaning of his act. 5 If the accused does not clearly and fully
understand the nature of the offense charged, if he is not advised as to the meaning and
effect of the technical language so often used in formal complaints and informations in
qualifying the acts constituting the offense, or if he does not clearly understand the
consequences by way of a heavy and even a capital penalty flowing from his admission
of his guilt of the crime in the precise technical manner and form in which it is charged,
his plea of guilty should not be accepted and if accepted it should not be held to be
sufficient to sustain a conviction. 6

In capital offenses, the trial judge should give ample opportunity to the counsel de oficio
to examine not only the records of the case but also to acquire every relevant
information on the matter, such as conferring with the accused adequately so that he
may properly, intelligently and effectively represent his interests. 7 This is but to accord
substance to one of the great principles of justice, guaranteed by the Constitution, which
is the right of an accused to be heard by himself and counsel as a requirement of due
process. The enjoyment of such a right would certainly be viscerated if the counsel of
the accused is precluded from knowing fully the facts of his clients case. 8

Under Sec. 5, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, whenever an attorney de oficio is
employed or assigned by the court to defend an accused either at the arraignment or at
the trial, he should be given a reasonable time to consult with the accused and prepare
his defense before proceeding further in the case which should not be less than two (2)
hours in case of arraignment and two (2) days in case of trial. These requirements were
not complied with. After accuseds arraignment on November 8, 1977, the court
immediately set the case for trial the next day, November 9, 1977, disregarding counsel
de oficios manifestation that he be allowed the required two-day period within which to
prepare for trial. The transcript of the stenographic notes taken during the arraignment
shows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Atty. Rodriguez, are you waiving the two days period as provided for under Rule 116 of
the New Rules of Court?

Atty. Rodriguez:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Your Honor please, may we request that this case be called later?

Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

But he already pleaded guilty.

Atty. Rodriguez:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

In that case, your Honor, may we . . . . (interrupted)

Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Mandatory presentation of evidence, he already pleaded guilty.

Atty. Rodriguez:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

May we be given two days period, Your Honor?

Court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

All right, tomorrow."cralaw virtua1aw library

In the recent case of People v. Magsi, 9 the trial court set six hearing dates and in two
earlier instances the herein accused entered a qualified plea of guilty (stating that he
acted out of fear and duress exerted upon him by his co-accused), so much so that at
the fifth hearing the trial court motu proprio changed the accuseds plea of guilty to not
guilty. But at the sixth hearing date, after counsel de oficio manifested the accuseds
wish to be rearraigned and would not offer any qualifying circumstances regarding his
guilty plea, the trial court admitted the guilty plea and forthwith rendered its death
sentence. This Court set aside the conviction and remanded the case for rearraignment
and further proceedings holding that" (R)ecorded proceedings at the first instance on
September 9, 1970 reproduced previously, showed that de oficio counsel Atty. Rivera
and accused were hardly afforded by the Court any opportunity to discuss the case
together, and the qualified plea of guilty resulted from the Courts proddings rather than
from accuseds spontaneous volition," and that" (W)e have consistently enjoined strict
and substantial adherence to our rulings in cases where defendants are charged with
capital offenses. Mere pro-forma appointment of de oficio counsel, who fails to genuinely
protect the interests of the accused, resetting of hearing by the court for alleged
reception of evidence when in fact none was conducted, perfunctory queries addressed
to the accused whether he understands the charges and the gravity of the penalty, are
not sufficient compliance with our injunctions. The Court restated once more its
injunction on the trial courts duties to the accused in People v. Domingo, 10
thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"We enunciated times without number in our injunctions addressed to the trial courts
that they should exercise solicitous care before sentencing the accused on a plea of
guilty especially in capital offenses by first insuring that the accused fully understands
the gravity of the offense, the severity of the consequences attached thereto as well as
the meaning and significance of his plea of guilty; and that the prudent and proper thing
to do in capital cases is to take testimony, to assure the court that the accused has not
misunderstood the nature and effect of his plea of guilty (People v. Villafuerte, supra;
People v. Alamada, L-34594-5, July 13, 1973; People v. Busa, L-32047, June 25, 1973;
People v. Silvestre, L-27821, June 22, 1973; People v. Simeon, L-33730, Sept. 28,
1972; People v. Espia, L-33028, June 20, 1972; People v. Bulalake, 106 Phil. 760; U.S.
v. Jamad, 37 Phil. 305)."cralaw virtua1aw library

Finally, the fact that immediately after the prosecution had rested its case in the last
hearing held on November 16, 1977, the trial court read a "ready made" decision of
conviction shows that the accused was meted the death penalty without due process of
law. With the perfunctory arraignment of the accused and the undue haste with which
the hearing was held, the Court sees that accuseds fate was predetermined from the
start. Even before the termination of the hearing, the sentence of death had already
been prepared. At the last page of the transcript of stenographic notes taken by
stenographer Luisa S. Golla, a note appears which states: "NOTE: Sentence already
attached to the original records of the case." chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

ACCORDINGLY, the decision of the trial court is hereby set aside and the records of the
case are remanded to it for rearraignment of the accused and further proceedings in
accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.

Fernando, C.J., Makasiar, Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro, Melencio-
Herrera, Plana, Escolin, Relova and Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur.

Aquino, J., took no part.

SECTION 9. Bill of Particulars.

EN BANC

G.R. No. 213455, August 11, 2015

JUAN PONCE ENRILE, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, HON. AMPARO


M. CABOTAJE-TANG, HON. SAMUEL R. MARTIRES, AND HON. ALEX L. QUIROZ OF
THE THIRD DIVISION OF THE SANDIGANBAYAN, Respondents.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

We resolve the petition for certiorari with prayers (a) for the Court En Banc to act on
the petition; (b) to expedite the proceedings and to set the case for oral arguments; and
(c) to issue a temporary restraining order to the respondents from holding a pre-trial
and further proceedings in Criminal Case No. SB-14-CRM-02381 filed by petitioner Juan
Ponce Enrile (Enrile) challenging the July 11, 2014 resolutions2 of the Sandiganbayan.

I.

THE ANTECEDENTS

On June 5, 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman filed an Information3 for plunder against
Enrile, Jessica Lucila Reyes, Janet Lim Napoles, Ronald John Lim, and John Raymund de
Asis before the Sandiganbayan.
The Information reads:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
xxxx

In 2004 to 2010 or thereabout, in the Philippines, and within this Honorable Courts
jurisdiction, above-named accused JUAN PONCE ENRILE, then a Philippine Senator,
JESSICA LUCILA G. REYES, then Chief of Staff of Senator Enriles Office, both public
officers, committing the offense in relation to their respective offices, conspiring with
one another and with JANET LIM NAPOLES, RONALD JOHN LIM, and JOHN RAYMUND DE
ASIS, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and criminally amass, accumulate, and/or
acquire ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO MILLION
EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS
(Php172,834,500.00) through a combination or series of overt criminal acts, as
follows:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

(a) by repeatedly receiving from NAPOLES and/or her representatives LIM, DE ASIS,
and others, kickbacks or commissions under the following circumstances: before,
during and/or after the project identification, NAPOLES gave, and ENRILE and/or
REYES received, a percentage of the cost of a project to be funded from ENRILES
Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration of ENRILES
endorsement, directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies,
of NAPOLES non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or
target implementors of ENRILES PDAF projects, which duly-funded projects turned
out to be ghosts or fictitious, thus enabling NAPOLES to misappropriate the PDAF
proceeds for her personal gain;

(b) by taking undue advantage, on several occasions, of their official positions,


authority, relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at
the expense and to the damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the
Republic of the Philippines.

CONTRARY TO LAW.
Enrile responded by filing before the Sandiganbayan (1) an urgent omnibus
motion (motion to dismiss for lack of evidence on record to establish probable cause and
ad cautelam motion for bail),4 and (2) a supplemental opposition to issuance of warrant
of arrest and for dismissal of Information,5 on June 10, 2014, and June 16, 2014,
respectively. The Sandiganbayan heard both motions on June 20, 2014.

On June 24, 2014, the prosecution filed a consolidated opposition to both motions.

On July 3, 2014, the Sandiganbayan denied Enriles motions and ordered the issuance
of warrants of arrest on the plunder case against the accused.6redarclaw

On July 8, 2014, Enrile received a notice of hearing7 informing him that his arraignment
would be held before the Sandiganbayans Third Division on July 11, 2014.

On July 10, 2014, Enrile filed a motion for bill of particulars8 before the
Sandiganbayan. On the same date, he filed a motion for deferment of
arraignment9 since he was to undergo medical examination at the Philippine General
Hospital (PGH).

On July 11, 2014, Enrile was brought to the Sandiganbayan pursuant to the
Sandiganbayans order and his motion for bill of particulars was called for hearing. Atty.
Estelito Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza), Enriles counsel, argued the motion orally. Thereafter,
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice (PJ) Amparo Cabotaje-Tang (Cabotaje-Tang), declared
a 10-minute recess to deliberate on the motion.

When the court session resumed, PJ Cabotaje-Tang announced the Courts denial of
Enriles motion for bill of particulars essentially on the following grounds:

(1) the details that Enrile desires are substantial reiterations of the
arguments he raised in his supplemental opposition to the issuance of
warrant of arrest and for dismissal of information; and

(2) the details sought are evidentiary in nature and are best ventilated during
trial.

Atty. Mendoza asked for time to file a motion for reconsideration, stating that he would
orally move to reconsider the Sandiganbayans denial if he would not be given time to
seek a reconsideration. The Sandiganbayan then directed Atty. Mendoza to immediately
proceed with his motion for reconsideration.

Atty. Mendoza thus orally presented his arguments for the reconsideration of the denial
of Enriles motion for bill of particulars. The Sandiganbayan again declared a recess to
deliberate on the motion. After five (5) minutes, PJ Cabotaje-Tang announced the
Sandiganbayans denial of the motion for reconsideration.10redarclaw

The Sandiganbayan reduced its rulings into writing on Enriles written and oral motions.
The pertinent portion of this ruling reads:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
xxxx

In todays consideration of accused Juan Ponce Enriles Motion for Bill of Particulars, the
Court heard the parties on oral arguments in relation thereto. Thereafter, it declared a
ten-minute recess to deliberate thereon. After deliberating on the said motion as well as
the arguments of the parties, the Court resolves to DENY as it hereby DENIES the
same motion for bill of particulars for the following reasons: (1) the details desired in
paragraphs 2 to 5 of the said motion are substantially reiterations of the arguments
raised by accused Enrile in his Supplemental Opposition to Issuance of Warrant of Arrest
and for Dismissal of Information dated June 16, 2014 x x x.

The Court already upheld the sufficiency of the allegations in the Information charging
accused Enrile, among other persons, with the crime of plunder in its Resolution dated
July 3, 2014. It finds no cogent reasons to reconsider the said ruling.

Moreover, the desired details that accused Enrile would like the prosecution to provide
are evidentiary in nature, which need not be alleged in the Information. They are best
ventilated during the trial of the case.

Counsel for accused Juan Ponce Enrile orally sought a reconsideration of the denial of his
motion for bill of particulars which was opposed by the prosecution. The Court then
declared another ten-minute recess to deliberate on the said motion for reconsideration.
After deliberation thereon, the Court likewise resolved to DENY as it
hereby DENIES accused Juan Ponce Enriles motion for reconsideration there being no
new or substantial grounds raised to warrant the grant thereof.

ACCORDINGLY, the scheduled arraignment of accused Juan Ponce Enrile shall now
proceed as previously scheduled.

SO ORDERED.11
Atty. Mendoza subsequently moved for the deferment of Enriles arraignment. The
Sandiganbayan responded by directing the doctors present to determine whether he was
physically fit to be arraigned. After he was declared fit, the Sandiganbayan proceeded
with Enriles arraignment. Enrile entered a no plea, prompting the Sandiganbayan to
enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.
II.

THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI

Enrile claims in this petition that the Sandiganbayan acted with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it denied his motion for bill of
particulars despite the ambiguity and insufficiency of the Information filed against him.
Enrile maintains that the denial was a serious violation of his constitutional right to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

Enrile further alleges that he was left to speculate on what his specific participation in
the crime of plunder had been. He posits that the Information should have stated the
details of the particular acts that allegedly constituted the imputed series or combination
of overt acts that led to the charge of plunder. Enrile essentially reiterates the details
desired that he sought in his motion for bill of particulars, as
follows:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

Allegations of Information Details Desired


x x x accused JUAN PONCE ENRILE, a. Who among the accused acquired the
then a Philippine Senator, JESSICA alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to at
LUCILA G. REYES, then Chief of Staff of least ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO MILLION
Senator Enriles Office, both public EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND
officers, committing the offense in FIVE HUNDRED PESOS
relation to their respective offices, (Php172,834,500.00)? One of them, two of
conspiring with one another and with them or all of them? Kindly specify.
JANET LIM NAPOLES, RONALD JOHN
LIM, and JOHN RAYMUND DE ASIS, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully, and
criminally amass, accumulate, and/or
acquire ill-gotten wealth amounting to
at least ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO
MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY
FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED
PESOS (Php172,834,500.00) through a
combination or series of overt acts, x x
x.

b. The allegation through a combination or


series of overt criminal acts is a conclusion of
fact or of law. What are the particular overt
acts which constitute the combination? What
are the particular overt acts which constitute
the series? Who committed those acts?

x x x by repeatedly receiving from a. What was repeatedly received? If sums of


NAPOLES and/or her representatives money, the particular amount. If on several
LIM, DE ASIS, and others, kickbacks or occasions and in different amounts, specify
commissions under the following the amount on each occasion and the
circumstances: before, during and/or corresponding date of receipt.
after the project identification,
NAPOLES gave, and ENRILE and/or
REYES received, a percentage of the
cost of a project to be funded from
ENRILES Priority Development
Assistance Fund (PDAF), in
consideration of ENRILES
endorsement, directly or through
REYES, to the appropriate government
agencies, of NAPOLES non-government
organizations which became the
recipients and/or target implementers
of ENRILES PDAF projects, which duly-
funded projects turned out to be ghosts
or fictitious, thus enabling NAPOLES to
misappropriate the PDAF proceeds for
her personal gain;

b. Name the specific person(s) who delivered


the amount of Php172,834,500.00 and the
specific person(s) who received the amount;
or if not in lump sum, the various amounts
totaling Php172,834,500.00. x x x Specify
particularly the person who delivered the
amount, Napoles or Lim or De Asis, and who
particularly are the others.

c. To whom was the money given? To Enrile


or Reyes? State the amount given on each
occasion, the date when and the place where
the amount was given.

d. x x x Describe each project allegedly


identified, how, and by whomwas the project
identified, the nature of each project, where it
is located and the cost of each project.

e. For each of the years 2004-2010,


under what law or official documentis a
portion of the Priority Development
Assistance Fund identified as that of a
member of Congress, in this instance, as
ENRILEs, to be found? In what amount for
each year is ENRILEs Priority Development
Assistance Fund? When, and to whom, did
Enrile endorse the projects in favor of
Napoles non-government organizations which
became the recipients and/or target
implementers of ENRILEs PDAF
projects? NameNapoles non-government
organizations which became the recipients
and/or target implementers of ENRILEs PDAF
projects. Who paidNapoles, from whom did
Napoles collect the fund for the projects which
turned out to be ghosts or fictitious? Who
authorized the payments for each project?

f. x x x what COA audits or field investigations


were conducted which validated the findings
that each of Enriles PDAF projects in the
years 2004-2010 were ghosts or spurious
projects?

x x x by taking undue advantage, on a. Provide the details of how Enrile took


several occasions of their official undue advantage, on several occasions, of his
positions, authority, relationships, official positions, authority, relationships,
connections, and influence to unjustly connections, and influence to unjustly enrich
enrich themselves at the expense and himself at the expense and to the damage
to the damage and prejudice, of the and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the
Filipino people and the Republic of the Republic of the Philippines. Was this because
Philippines. he received any money from the
government? From whom and for what reason
did he receive any money or property from
the government through which he unjustly
enriched himself? State the details from
whom each amount was received,
the place and the time.

Enrile posits that his desired details are not evidentiary in nature; they are material
facts that should be clearly alleged in the Information so that he may be fully informed
of the charges against him and be prepared to meet the issues at the trial.

Enrile adds that the grounds raised in his motion for bill of particulars are cited in a
context different from his opposition to the issuance of a warrant of arrest. He maintains
that the resolution of the probable cause issue was interlocutory and did not bar the
submission of the same issue in subsequent proceedings especially in the context of a
different proceeding.

Enrile thus prays that: (a) the Court en banc act on the present petition; (b) by way of
an interim measure, the Court issue a TRO or writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the
Sandiganbayan from holding the pre-trial and subsequent proceedings against him in
Criminal Case No. SB-14-CRM-0238 during the pendency of the present petition; (c) the
Court expedite the proceedings and set the case for oral arguments; and (d) at the
conclusion of the proceedings, the Court annul and set aside the Sandiganbayans July
11, 2014 resolution and his arraignment.

A. The Peoples Comment

In its Comment,12 the People of the Philippines13 counters that the Sandiganbayan did
not exercise its discretionary power in an arbitrary or despotic manner. Even assuming
that the Sandiganbayans denial of Enriles motion for bill of particulars was erroneous,
the error did not amount to lack or excess or jurisdiction. It further maintains that the
assailed Sandiganbayan rulings were arrived at based on the procedures prescribed
under Section 2, Rule VII of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan.

The People also argues that the Information already contained the ultimate facts;
matters of evidence do not need to be averred.

B. Enriles Reply

In his Reply, Enrile essentially claims that the right to move for a bill of particulars is
ancillary to and in implementation of an accuseds rights to due process, to be heard,
and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. He maintains
that the Sandiganbayans denial of his motion for bill of particulars is not a mere denial
of a procedural right under the Rules of Court, but of rights vested in an accused under
the Constitution to ensure fairness in the trial of the offense charged. Enrile also adds
that there could only be a fair trial if he could properly plead to the Information and
prepare for trial.

Enrile further argues that the Peoples Comment did not dispute the relevance of the
details sought in the motion for bill of particulars. He likewise claims that the desired
details could not be found in the bundle of documents marked by the
prosecution during the preliminary conference. Finally, Enrile maintains that his
motion for bill of particulars was not dilatory.
III.

THE COURTS RULING

After due consideration, we resolve to partially GRANT the petition under the
terms outlined below.

A. The constitutional right of the accused to be informed

Under the Constitution, a person who stands charged of a criminal offense has the right
to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.14 This right has
long been established in English law, and is the same right expressly guaranteed in our
1987 Constitution. This right requires that the offense charged be stated with clarity and
with certainty to inform the accused of the crime he is facing in sufficient detail to
enable him to prepare his defense.15redarclaw

In the 1904 case of United States v. Karelsen,16 the Court explained the purpose of
informing an accused in writing of the charges against him from the perspective of his
right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against
him:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
The object of this written accusation was First. To furnish the accused with such a
description of the charge against him as will enable him to make his defense; and
second, to avail himself of his conviction or acquittal for protection against a further
prosecution for the same cause; and third, to inform the court of the facts alleged, so
that it may decide whether they are sufficient in law to support a conviction, if one
should be had. (United States vs. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542.) In order that this
requirement may be satisfied, facts must be stated, not conclusions of law. Every
crime is made up of certain acts and intent; these must be set forth in the complaint
with reasonable particularity of time, place, names (plaintiff and defendant), and
circumstances. In short, the complaint must contain a specific allegation of every fact
and circumstances necessary to constitute the crime charged. x x x.17[Emphasis
supplied.]
The objective, in short, is to describe the act with sufficient certainty to fully appraise
the accused of the nature of the charge against him and to avoid possible surprises that
may lead to injustice. Otherwise, the accused would be left speculating on why he has
been charged at all.18redarclaw

In People v. Hon. Mencias, et al.,19 the Court further explained that a persons
constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him
signifies that an accused should be given the necessary data on why he is the subject of
a criminal proceeding. The Court added that the act or conduct imputed to a person
must be described with sufficient particularity to enable the accused to defend himself
properly.

The general grant and recognition of a protected right emanates from Section 1, Article
III of the 1987 Constitution which states that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty,
or property without due process of law. The purpose of the guaranty is to prevent
governmental encroachment against the life, liberty, and property of individuals; to
secure the individual from the arbitrary exercise of the powers of the government,
unrestrained by the established principles of private rights and distributive justice x x x;
and to secure to all persons equal and impartial justice and the benefit of the general
law.20redarclaw

Separately from Section 1, Article III is the specific and direct underlying root of the
right to information in criminal proceedings Section 14(1), Article III which provides
that No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of
law. Thus, no doubt exists that the right to be informed of the cause of the accusation
in a criminal case has deep constitutional roots that, rather than being cavalierly
disregarded, should be carefully protected.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan (2nd Division),21 the Court, in sustaining


the Sandiganbayans grant of the motion for bill of particulars of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.,
held that the facile verbosity with which the legal counsel for the government flaunted
the accusation of excesses against the Marcoses in general terms must be soonest
refurbished by a bill of particulars, so that respondent can properly prepare an intelligent
responsive pleading and so that trial in this case will proceed as expeditiously as
possible.22 The Court additionally stated that:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
This Court has been liberal in giving the lower courts the widest latitude of discretion in
setting aside default orders justified under the right to due process principle. Plain
justice demands and the law requires no less that defendants must know what the
complaint against them is all about.

x x x In the interest of justice, we need to dispel the impression in the individual


respondents' minds that they are being railroaded out of their rights and properties
without due process of law.23
B. Procedural Sufficiency of the Information

An Information is an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense, signed by


the prosecutor and filed with the court.24 The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, in
implementing the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and
cause of the accusation against him, specifically require certain matters to be stated in
the Information for its sufficiency. The requirement aims to enable the accused to
properly prepare for his defense since he is presumed to have no independent
knowledge of the facts constituting the offense charged.25redarclaw

To be considered as sufficient and valid, an information must state the name of the
accused; the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions
constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the
commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed.26redarclaw

If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or


subsection of the statute penalizing it. The acts or omissions constituting the offense and
the qualifying and aggravating circumstances alleged must be stated in ordinary and
concise language; they do not necessarily need to be in the language of the statute, and
should be in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what
offense is charged and what qualifying and aggravating circumstances are alleged, so
that the court can pronounce judgment.27 The Rules do not require the Information to
exactly allege the date and place of the commission of the offense, unless the date and
the place are material ingredients or essential elements of the offense, or are necessary
for its identification.

B.1. Ultimate facts versus Evidentiary facts

An Information only needs to state the ultimate facts constituting the offense; the
evidentiary and other details (i.e., the facts supporting the ultimate facts) can be
provided during the trial.28redarclaw

Ultimate facts is defined as those facts which the expected evidence will support. The
term does not refer to the details of probative matter or particulars of evidence by which
these material elements are to be established. It refers to the facts that the
evidence will prove at the trial.29redarclaw

Ultimate facts has also been defined as the principal, determinative, and constitutive
facts on whose existence the cause of action rests;30 they are also the essential and
determining facts on which the court's conclusion rests and without which the judgment
would lack support in essential particulars.31redarclaw
Evidentiary facts, on the other hand, are the facts necessary to establish the ultimate
facts; they are the premises that lead to the ultimate facts as conclusion.32They are
facts supporting the existence of some other alleged and unproven
fact.33redarclaw

In Bautista v. Court of Appeals,34 the Court explained these two concepts in relation to a
particular criminal case, as follows:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
The distinction between the elements of the offense and the evidence of these elements
is analogous or akin to the difference between ultimate facts and evidentiary facts in
civil cases. Ultimate facts are the essential and substantial facts which either
form the basis of the primary right and duty or which directly make up the
wrongful acts or omissions of the defendant, while evidentiary facts are those
which tend to prove or establish said ultimate facts. x x x.35 [Emphasis supplied.]
While it is fundamental that every element of the offense must be alleged in the
Information, matters of evidence as distinguished from the facts essential to the
nature of the offense do not need to be alleged. Whatever facts and circumstances
must necessarily be alleged are to be determined based on the definition and the
essential elements of the specific crimes.36redarclaw

C. Arraignment

The procedural due process mandate of the Constitution requires that the accused be
arraigned so that he may be fully informed as to why he was charged and what penal
offense he has to face, to be convicted only on showing that his guilt is shown beyond
reasonable doubt with full opportunity to disprove the evidence against him.37 During
arraignment, the accused is granted the opportunity to fully know the precise
charge that confronts him and made fully aware of possible loss of freedom,
even of his life, depending on the nature of the crime imputed to him.38redarclaw

An arraignment thus ensures that an accused be fully acquainted with the nature of the
crime imputed to him in the Information and the circumstances under which it is
allegedly committed.39 It is likewise at this stage of the proceedings when the accused
enters his plea,40 or enters a plea of not guilty to a lesser offense which is necessarily
included in the offense charged.41redarclaw

A concomitant component of this stage of the proceedings is that the Information should
provide the accused with fair notice of the accusations made against him, so that he
will be able to make an intelligent plea and prepare a defense.42Moreover, the
Information must provide some means of ensuring that the crime for which the
accused is brought to trial is in fact one for which he was charged, rather than
some alternative crime seized upon by the prosecution in light of subsequently
discovered evidence.43Likewise, it must indicate just what crime or crimes an
accused is being tried for, in order to avoid subsequent attempts to retry him
for the same crime or crimes.44 In other words, the Information must permit the
accused to prepare his defense, ensure that he is prosecuted only on the basis of facts
presented, enable him to plead jeopardy against a later prosecution, and inform the
court of the facts alleged so that it can determine the sufficiency of the charge.

Oftentimes, this is achieved when the Information alleges the material elements of the
crime charged. If the Information fails to comply with this basic standard, it would be
quashed on the ground that it fails to charge an offense.45Of course, an Information
may be sufficient to withstand a motion to quash, and yet insufficiently inform
the accused of the specific details of the alleged offenses. In such instances,
the Rules of Court allow the accused to move for a bill of particulars to enable
him properly to plead and to prepare for trial.46redarclaw

C.1. Bill of Particulars


In general, a bill of particulars is the further specification of the charges or
claims in an action, which an accused may avail of by motion before arraignment, to
enable him to properly plead and prepare for trial. In civil proceedings, a bill of
particulars has been defined as a complementary procedural document consisting of an
amplification or more particularized outline of a pleading, and is in the nature of a more
specific allegation of the facts recited in the pleading.47 The purpose of a motion for bill
of particulars in civil cases is to enable a party to prepare his responsive
pleading properly.

In criminal cases, a bill of particulars details items or specific conduct not recited in the
Information but nonetheless pertain to or are included in the crime charged. Its purpose
is to enable an accused: to know the theory of the governments case;48 to prepare his
defense and to avoid surprise at the trial; to plead his acquittal or conviction in bar of
another prosecution for the same offense; and to compel the prosecution to observe
certain limitations in offering evidence.49redarclaw

In criminal proceedings, the motion for a bill of particulars is governed by Section 9 of


Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
Section 9. Bill of particulars. - The accused may, before arraignment, move for a bill of
particulars to enable him properly to plead and prepare for trial. The motion shall specify
the alleged defects of the complaint or information and the details desired.
The rule requires the information to describe the offense with sufficient particularity to
apprise the accused of the crime charged with and to enable the court to pronounce
judgment. The particularity must be such that persons of ordinary intelligence
may immediately know what the Information means.50redarclaw

The general function of a bill of particulars, whether in civil or criminal proceedings, is to


guard against surprises during trial. It is not the function of the bill to furnish the
accused with the evidence of the prosecution. Thus, the prosecutor shall not be required
to include in the bill of particulars matters of evidence relating to how the people intend
to prove the elements of the offense charged or how the people intend to prove any
item of factual information included in the bill of particulars.51redarclaw

C.2. Origin of bill of particulars in criminal cases52redarclaw

Even before the promulgation of the 1964 Rules of Court, when the applicable rules for
criminal procedure was still General Order No. 58,53 the Court had already recognized
the need for a bill of particulars in criminal cases. This recognition came despite the lack
of any specific provision in General Order No. 58 setting out the rules for a bill of
particulars in criminal cases.

In U.S. v. Schneer,54 the issue presented was whether a bill of particulars was available
in a criminal case for estafa after the accused had already been arraigned. The Court
essentially ruled that there was no specific provision of law expressly authorizing the
filing of specifications or bills of particulars in criminal cases, and held
that:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
We know of no provision either in General Orders, No. 58, or in the laws existing prior
thereto which requires the Government to furnish such a bill of particulars, and we
accordingly hold that it was not error on the part of the court below to refuse to do so.
In U.S. v. Cernias,55 however, the Court formally recognized the existence and
applicability of a bill of particulars in criminal cases. In this case, the prosecution filed an
information charging Basilio Cernias with several counts of brigandage before the Court
of First Instance of Leyte. In overruling the accuseds objection, the Court declared that
the prosecutions act of specifying certain acts done by the conspirators in the
Information did no more than to furnish the defendant with a bill of particulars of the
facts which it intended to prove at the trial x x x.56redarclaw
In sum, the Court essentially held that a detailed complaint or information is not
objectionable, and that the details it contains may be properly considered as
specifications or bill of particulars.57redarclaw

In People v. Abad Santos,58 the court first recognized a bill of particulars, as a right that
the accused may ask for from the court. In this case, the prosecution charged
respondent Joseph Arcache with the crime of treason before the Peoples Court. The
Information filed against the accused contained, in counts 2 and 3, the phrase and
other similar equipment.

The counsel for the accused verbally petitioned the Peoples court to order the
prosecution to make more specific [the] phrase and other similar equipment, which
request the Peoples Court granted. The People of the Philippines filed a petition
for certiorari, but the Court dismissed this petition.

In upholding the order of the Peoples Court, the Court ruled that in the absence of
specific provisions of law prohibiting the filing of specifications or bills of particulars in
criminal cases, their submission may be permitted, as they cannot prejudice any
substantial rights of the accused. On the contrary, they will serve to apprise the accused
clearly of the charges filed against them, and thus enable them to prepare intelligently
whatever defense or defenses they might have.59redarclaw

Notably, Abad Santos emphasized the importance of a bill of particulars in criminal


cases, stating that x x x inasmuch as in criminal cases not only the liberty but even the
life of the accused may be at stake, it is always wise and proper that the accused should
be fully apprised of the true charges against them, and thus avoid all and any possible
surprise, which might be detrimental to their rights and interests; and ambiguous
phrases should not, therefore, be permitted in criminal complaints or informations; and
if any such phrase has been included therein, on motion of the defense, before the
commencement of the trial, the court should order either its elimination as surplusage or
the filing of the necessary specification, which is but an amendment in mere matters of
form.60redarclaw

In these cited cases, the Courts did not rely on the Rules of Court to provide for a bill of
particulars in criminal cases. A specific provision granting the accused the right to move
for or demand a more definite statement or a bill of particulars was not incorporated as
a formal rule until the 1964 Rules of Court,61under its Section 6, Rule 116. This initial
provision later became Section 10 of Rule 116 under the 1985 Rules of Criminal
Procedure62and Section 9 of Rule 116 under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as
amended.63redarclaw

C.3. The Distinctive Role of a Bill of Particulars

When allegations in an Information are vague or indefinite, the remedy of the accused
is not a motion to quash, but a motion for a bill of particulars.

The purpose of a bill of particulars is to supply vague facts or allegations in the


complaint or information to enable the accused to properly plead and prepare for
trial. It presupposes a valid Information, one that presents all the elements of
the crime charged, albeit under vague terms. Notably, the specifications that a bill
of particulars may supply are only formal amendments to the complaint or Information.

In Virata v. Sandiganbayan,64 the Court expounded on the purpose of a bill of particulars


as follows:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
It is the office or function, as well as the object or purpose, of a bill of particulars to
amplify or limit a pleading, specify more minutely and particularly a claim or defense set
up and pleaded in general terms, give information, not contained in the pleading, to the
opposite party and the court as to the precise nature, character, scope, and extent of
the cause of action or defense relied on by the pleader, and apprise the opposite party
of the case which he has to meet, to the end that the proof at the trial may be limited to
the matters specified, and in order that surprise at, and needless preparation for, the
trial may be avoided, and that the opposite party may be aided in framing his answering
pleading and preparing for trial. It has also been stated that it is the function or
purpose of a bill of particulars to define, clarify, particularize, and limit or
circumscribe the issues in the case, to expedite the trial, and assist the court. A
general function or purpose of a bill of particulars is to prevent injustice or do
justice in the case when that cannot be accomplished without the aid of such a
bill.65redarclaw

x x x x [Emphasis ours.]
Notably, the failure of the accused to move for the specification of the details
desired deprives him of the right to object to evidencethat could be introduced
and admitted under an Information of more or less general terms but which
sufficiently charges the accused with a definite crime.66redarclaw

Although the application for the bill of particulars is one addressed to the sound
discretion of the court67 it should nonetheless exercise its discretion within the context
of the facts and the nature of the crime charged in each case and the right of
the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him.
As articulated in the case of People v. Iannone:68
It is beyond cavil that a defendant has a basic and fundamental right to be informed of
the charges against him so that he will be able to prepare a defense. Hence the courts
must exercise careful surveillance to ensure that a defendant is not deprived of this right
by an overzealous prosecutor attempting to protect his case or his witnesses. Any effort
to leave a defendant in ignorance of the substance of the accusation until the time of
trial must be firmly rebuffed. This is especially so where the indictment itself provides a
paucity of information. In such cases, the court must be vigilant in safeguarding the
defendant's rights to a bill of particulars and to effective discovery. Should the
prosecutor decide to use an indictment which, although technically sufficient, does not
adequately allow a defendant to properly prepare for trial, he may well run afoul of the
defendant's right to be informed of the accusations against him.
Thus, if the Information is lacking, a court should take a liberal attitude towards its
granting69 and order the government to file a bill of particulars elaborating on the
charges. Doubts should be resolved in favor of granting the bill70 to give full meaning to
the accuseds Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Notably, the government cannot put the accused in the position of disclosing certain
overt acts through the Information and withholding others subsequently discovered, all
of which it intends to prove at the trial. This is the type of surprise a bill of particulars is
designed to avoid.71The accused is entitled to the observance of all the rules
designated to bring about a fair verdict.

This becomes more relevant in the present case where the crime charged
carries with it the severe penalty of capital punishment and entails
the commission of several predicate criminal acts involving a great number of
transactions spread over a considerable period of time.

C.4. Motion to Quash vs. Motion for Bill of Particulars

A bill of particulars presupposes a valid Information while a motion to quash is a


jurisdictional defect on account that the facts charged in the Information does not
constitute an offense.72redarclaw

Justice Antonio T. Carpio, in his dissent, avers that the allegations in the information are
not vague because the Information needs only allege the ultimate facts constituting the
offense for which the accused stands charged, not the finer details of why and how the
illegal acts alleged were committed. In support of his position, Justice Carpio cited the
cases of Miguel v. Sandiganbayan,73Go v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas,74 and People v.
Romualdez,75 among others, to support the superfluity of the details requested by Enrile.

Justice Carpios reliance on these cases is misplaced for they involve the issue
of quashal of an information on the ground that the facts charge do not constitute an
offense, rather than a request for bill of particulars. That is, these cited cases involve the
critical issue of the validity of an information, and not a request for specificity with
request to an offense charged in an information.

On the other hand, the cases of People v. Sanico,76People v. Banzuela,77Pielago v.


People,78People v. Rayon, Sr.,79People v. Subesa,80People v. Anguac,81 and Los Baos v.
Pedro,82 which were likewise cited by Justice Carpio, involve the issue that an
Information only need to allege the ultimate facts, and not the specificity of the
allegations contained in the information as to allow the accused to prepare for trial and
make an intelligent plea.83redarclaw

Notably, in Miguel,84 to which Justice Carpio concurred, this Court mentioned


that the proper remedy, if at all, to a supposed ambiguity in an otherwise valid
Information, is merely to move for a bill of particulars and not for the quashal
of an information which sufficiently alleges the elements of the offense
charged.85redarclaw

Clearly then, a bill of particulars does not presuppose an invalid information for
it merely fills in the details on an otherwise valid information to enable an
accused to make an intelligent plea and prepare for his defense.

I stress, however, that the issue in the present case involves abuse of discretion for
denying Enriles request for a bill of particulars, and not a motion to quash.

If the information does not charge an offense, then a motion to quash is in


order.86redarclaw

But if the information charges an offense and the averments are so vague that
the accused cannot prepare to plead or prepare for trial, then a motion for a bill
of particulars is the proper remedy.87redarclaw

Thus viewed, a motion to quash and a motion for a bill of particulars are distinct and
separate remedies, the latter presupposing an information sufficient in law to charge an
offense.88redarclaw

D. The Grave Abuse of Discretion Issue

The grant or denial of a motion for bill of particulars is discretionary on the court where
the Information is filed. As usual in matters of discretion, the ruling of the trial court will
not be reversed unless grave abuse of discretion or a manifestly erroneous order
amounting to grave abuse of discretion is shown.89redarclaw

Grave abuse of discretion refers to the capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment that
amounts or is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be 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, or to act at all in contemplation of law such as when the
power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and
hostility.90 For the extraordinary writ of certiorari to lie, there must be capricious,
arbitrary, or whimsical exercise of power.

It will be recalled that the Sandiganbayan denied Enriles motion for bill of particulars
on two grounds, namely:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
(1) the details sought were evidentiary in nature and are best ventilated
during trial; and

(2) his desired details were reiterations of the details he sought in his
supplemental opposition to the issuance of a warrant of arrest.
We shall separately examine these grounds in determining whether the Sandiganbayan
committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied Enriles motion for a bill of
particulars and his subsequent motion for reconsideration.

Sandiganbayan Ground #1:LawlibraryofCRAlaw


The details sought were evidentiary in nature

D.1. The Law of Plunder

A determination of whether the details that Enrile sought were evidentiary requires an
examination of the elements of the offense he is charged with, i.e., plunder under
Republic Act No. 7080.

Section 2 of R.A. No. 7080, as amended, reads:LawlibraryofCRAlaw


Section 2. Definition of the Crime of Plunder; Penalties. Any public officer who, by
himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or
consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses,
accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt
criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) hereof in the aggregate amount or total
value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00) shall be guilty of the crime of
plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death. Any person who
participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to
the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense. In the imposition of
penalties, the degree of participation and the attendance of mitigating and extenuating
circumstances, as provided by the Revised Penal Code, shall be considered by the court.
The court shall declare any and all ill-gotten wealth and their interests and other
incomes and assets including the properties and shares of stocks derived from the
deposit or investment thereof forfeited in favor of the State. [Emphasis supplied.]
Based on this definition, the elements of plunder are:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
(1) That the offender is a public officer who acts by himself or in connivance with
members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates,
subordinates, or other persons;

(2) That he amassed, accumulated or acquired ill-gotten wealth through a


combination or series of the following overt or criminal acts:

(a) through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds


or raids on the public treasury;

(b) by receiving, directly or indirectly, any commission, gift, share, percentage,


kickback or any other form of pecuniary benefits from any person and/or entity
in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office
or position of the public officer concerned;

(c) by the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the


National Government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities of
government-owned or -controlled corporations or their subsidiaries;

(d) by obtaining, receiving or accepting directly or indirectly any shares of stock,


equity or any other form of interest or participation including the promise of
future employment in any business enterprise or undertaking;
(e) by establishing agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other
combinations and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit
particular persons or special interests; or

(f) by taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship,


connection or influence to unjustly enrich himself or themselves at the expense
and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the
Philippines; and,

(3) That the aggregate amount or total value of the ill-gotten wealth amassed,
accumulated or acquired is at least P50,000,000.00. [Emphasis supplied.]
D.1.a. The Conspiracy Element and its Requested Details

Taking these elements into account, we hold that Enriles requested details on Who
among the accused acquired the alleged ill-gotten wealth are not proper
subjects for a bill of particulars.

The allegation of the Information that the accused and Jessica Lucila G. Reyes,
conspiring with one another and with Janet Lim Napoles, Ronald John Lim, and John
Raymund de Asis x x x expressly charges conspiracy.

The law on plunder provides that it is committed by a public officer who acts by himself
or in connivance with x x x. The term connivance suggests an agreement or
consent to commit an unlawful act or deed with another; to connive is to cooperate or
take part secretly with another.91It implies both knowledge and assent that may either
be active or passive.92redarclaw

Since the crime of plunder may be done in connivance or in conspiracy with other
persons, and the Information filed clearly alleged that Enrile and Jessica Lucila
Reyes conspired with one another and with Janet Lim Napoles, Ronald John Lim and
John Raymund De Asis, then it is unnecessary to specify, as an essential element of the
offense, whether the ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least P172,834,500.00 had been
acquired by one, by two or by all of the accused. In the crime of plunder, the
amount of ill-gotten wealth acquired by each accused in a conspiracy is
immaterial for as long as the total amount amassed, acquired or accumulated is
at least P50 million.

We point out that conspiracy in the present case is not charged as a crime by itself but
only as the mode of committing the crime. Thus, there is no absolute necessity of
reciting its particulars in the Information because conspiracy is not the gravamen of the
offense charged.

It is enough to allege conspiracy as a mode in the commission of an offense in either of


the following manner: (1) by use of the word conspire, or its derivatives or synonyms,
such as confederate, connive, collude; or (2) by allegations of basic facts constituting
the conspiracy in a manner that a person of common understanding would know what is
intended, and with such precision as the nature of the crime charged will admit, to
enable the accused to competently enter a plea to a subsequent indictment based on the
same facts.93redarclaw

Our ruling on this point in People v. Quitlong94 is particularly


instructive:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
A conspiracy indictment need not, of course, aver all the components of conspiracy or
allege all the details thereof, like the part that each of the parties therein have
performed, the evidence proving the common design or the facts connecting all the
accused with one another in the web of the conspiracy. Neither is it necessary to
describe conspiracy with the same degree of particularity required in describing a
substantive offense. It is enough that the indictment contains a statement of the facts
relied upon to be constitutive of the offense in ordinary and concise language, with as
much certainty as the nature of the case will admit, in a manner that can enable a
person of common understanding to know what is intended, and with such precision that
the accused may plead his acquittal or conviction to a subsequent indictment based on
the same facts. x x x95
D.1.b. The Requested Details of Enriles PDAF

We similarly rule that the petitioner is not entitled to a bill of particulars for specifics
sought under the questions
For each of the years 2004-2010, under what law or official document is a
portion of the Priority Development Assistance Fund identified as that of a
member of Congress, in this instance, as ENRILEs, to be found? In what
amount for each year is ENRILEs Priority Development Assistance Fund?

and

x x x what COA audits or field investigations were conducted which validated


the findings that each of Enriles PDAF projects in the years 2004-2010 were
ghosts or spurious projects?
These matters will simply establish and support the ultimate fact that Enriles PDAF was
used to fund fictitious or nonexistent projects. Whether a discretionary fund (in the form
of PDAF) had indeed been made available to Enrile as a member of the Philippine
Congress and in what amounts are evidentiary matters that do not need to be reflected
with particularity in the Information, and may be passed upon at the full-blown trial on
the merits of the case.

D.1.b(i) The yearly PDAF Allocations

Specifically, we believe that the exact amounts of Enriles yearly PDAF allocations, if any,
from 2004 to 2010 need not be pleaded with specific particularity to enable him to
properly plead and prepare for his defense. In fact, Enrile may be in a better position to
know these details than the prosecution and thus cannot claim that he would be taken
by surprise during trial by the omission in the Information of his annual PDAF
allocations.

Thus, whether the amounts of Enriles PDAF allocations have been specified or not,
Enrile has been sufficiently informed that he stands charged of endorsing Napoles non-
government organizations to implement spurious or fictitious projects, in exchange for a
percentage of his PDAF.

D.1.b(ii) The details of the COA Audits

The details of the COA audits or field investigations only support the ultimate fact that
the projects implemented by Napoles NGOs, and funded by Enriles PDAF, were
nonexisting or fictitious. Thus, they are evidentiary in nature and do not need to be
spelled out with particularity in the Information.

To require more details on these matters from the prosecution would amount to asking
for evidentiary information that the latter intends to present at the trial; it would be a
compulsion on the prosecution to disclose in advance of the trial the evidence it will use
in proving the charges alleged in the indictment.

D.1.c. Other Sources of Kickbacks and Commissions

We also deny Enriles plea for details on who the others were (aside from
Napoles, Lim and De Asis) from whom he allegedly received kickbacks and commissions.
These other persons do not stand charged of conspiring with Enrile and need not
therefore be stated with particularly, either as specific individuals or as John Does. The
Court cannot second-guess the prosecutions reason for not divulging the identity of
these others who may potentially be witnesses for the prosecution.

What the Constitution guarantees the accused is simply the right to meet and examine
the prosecution witnesses. The prosecution has the prerogative to call witnesses other
than those named in the complaint or information, subject to the defenses right to
cross-examine them.96Making these others known would in fact be equivalent to the
prosecutions premature disclosure of its evidence. We stress, to the point of repetition,
that a bill of particulars is not meant to compel the prosecution to prematurely
disclose evidentiary matters supporting its case.

D.2. The Overt Acts constituting the Combination or Series under the
Plunder Law

We hold that Enrile is entitled to a bill of particulars for specifics sought under the
following questions
What are the particular overt acts which constitute the combination? What
are the particular overt acts which constitute the series? Who committed
those acts? [Emphasis ours.]
D.2.a. Reason for Requirement for Particulars of Overt Acts

Plunder is the crime committed by public officers when they amass wealth involving at
least P50 million by means of a combination or series of overt acts.97 Under these terms,
it is not sufficient to simply allege that the amount of ill-gotten wealth amassed
amounted to at least P50 million; the manner of amassing the ill-gotten wealth
whether through a combination or series of overt acts under Section 1(d) of R.A.
No. 7080 is an important element that must be alleged.

When the Plunder Law speaks of combination, it refers to at least two (2) acts falling
under different categories listed in Section 1, paragraph (d) of R.A. No. 7080 [for
example, raids on the public treasury under Section 1, paragraph (d), subparagraph (1),
and fraudulent conveyance of assets belonging to the National Government under
Section 1, paragraph (d), subparagraph (3)].

On the other hand, to constitute a series there must be two (2) or more overt or
criminal acts falling under the same category of enumeration found in Section 1,
paragraph (d) [for example, misappropriation, malversation and raids on the public
treasury, all of which fall under Section 1, paragraph (d), subparagraph (1)].98redarclaw

With respect to paragraph (a) of the Information


[(i.e., by repeatedly receiving from NAPOLES and/or her representatives LIM, DE ASIS,
and others, kickbacks or commissions under the following circumstances: before, during
and/or after the project identification, NAPOLES gave, and ENRILE and/or REYES
received, a percentage of the cost of a project to be funded from ENRILES Priority
Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration of ENRILES endorsement,
directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies, of NAPOLES non-
government organizations which became the recipients and/or target implementers of
ENRILES PDAF projects, which duly funded projects turned out to be ghosts or fictitious,
thus enabling NAPOLES to misappropriate the PDAF proceeds for her personal gain x x
x)]
we hold that the prosecution employed a generalized or shotgun approach in alleging
the criminal overt acts allegedly committed by Enrile. This approach rendered the
allegations of the paragraph uncertain to the point of ambiguity for purposes of
enabling Enrile to respond and prepare for his defense. These points are explained
in greater detail below.

The heart of the Plunder Law lies in the phrase combination or series of overt or
criminal acts. Hence, even if the accumulated ill-gotten wealth amounts to at
least P50 million, a person cannot be prosecuted for the crime of plunder if this
resulted from a single criminal act. This interpretation of the Plunder Law is very
clear from the congressional deliberations.99redarclaw

Considering that without a number of overt or criminal acts, there can be no crime of
plunder, the various overt acts that constitute the combination and series the
Information alleged, are material facts that should not only be alleged, but must be
stated with sufficient definiteness so that the accused would know what he is specifically
charged of and why he stands charged, so that he could properly defend himself against
the charge.

Thus, the several (i.e., at least 2) acts which are indicative of the overall scheme or
conspiracy must not be generally stated; they should be stated with enough
particularity for Enrile (and his co-accused) to be able to prepare the corresponding
refuting evidence to meet these alleged overt acts.

It is insufficient, too, to merely allege that a set of acts had been repeatedly done
(although this may constitute a series if averred with sufficient definiteness), and aver
that these acts resulted in the accumulation or acquisition of ill-gotten wealth amounting
to at least P172,834,500.00, as in this case. The Information should reflect with
particularity the predicate acts that underlie the crime of plunder, based on the
enumeration in Section 1(d) of R.A. No. 7080.

A reading of the Information filed against Enrile in the present case shows that the
prosecution made little or no effort to particularize the transactions that would
constitute the required series or combination of overt acts.

In fact, it clustered under paragraph (a) of the Information its recital of the
manner Enrile and his co-accused allegedly operated, thus describing its
general view of the series or combination of overt criminal acts that constituted
the crime of plunder.

Without any specification of the basic transactions where kickbacks or commissions


amounting to at least P172,834,500.00 had been allegedly received, Enriles preparation
for trial is obviously hampered. This defect is not cured by mere reference to the
prosecutions attachment, as Enrile already stated in his Reply that the desired
details could not be found in the bundle of documents marked by the
prosecution, which documents are not integral parts of the Information. Hence,
the prosecution does not discharge its burden of informing Enrile what these overt acts
were by simply pointing to these documents.

In providing the particulars of the overt acts that constitute the combination or series
of transactions constituting plunder, it stands to reason that the amounts involved, or
at their ball park figures, should be stated; these transactions are not necessarily
uniform in amount, and cannot simply collectively be described as amounting to
P172,834,500.00 without hampering Enriles right to respond after receiving the right
information.

To stress, this final sum is not a general ball park figure but a very specific sum
based on a number of different acts and hence must have a breakdown. Providing
this breakdown reinforces the required specificity in describing the different overt acts.

Negatively stated, unless Enrile is given the particulars and is later given the chance to
object to unalleged details, he stands to be surprised at the trial at the same time that
the prosecution is given the opportunity to play fast and loose with its evidence to
satisfy the more than P50 Million requirement of law.

D.2.b. Approximate Dates of Commissions or Kickbacks


Enrile should likewise know the approximate dates, at least, of the receipt of the
kickbacks and commissions, so that he could prepare the necessary pieces of evidence,
documentary or otherwise, to disprove the allegations against him. We point out that the
period covered by the indictment extends from 2004 to 2010 or thereabout, of which,
we again stress that different overt acts constituting of the elements of Plunder took
place during this period.

Undoubtedly, the length of time involved six years will pose difficulties to Enrile in
the preparation of his defense and will render him susceptible to surprises. Enrile
should not be left guessing and speculating which one/s from among the numerous
transactions involving his discretionary PDAF funds from 2004 to 2010, are covered by
the indictment.

D.2.c. The Projects Funded and NGOs Involved

Enrile is also entitled to particulars specifying the project that Enrile allegedly
funded coupled with the name of Napoles NGO (e.g., Pangkabuhayan Foundation,
Inc.), to sufficiently inform Enrile of the particular transactions referred to.100redarclaw

Be it remembered that the core of the indictment is:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

(1) the funding of nonexisting projects using Enriles PDAF;

(2) Enriles endorsement of Napoles NGOs to the government agencies to


implement these projects; and

(3) Enriles receipt of kickbacks or commissions in exchange for his


endorsement.

Under the elaborate scheme alleged to have been committed by Enrile and his co-
accused, the project identification was what started the totality of acts constituting
plunder: only after a project has been identified could Enrile have endorsed Napoles
NGO to the appropriate government agency that, in turn, would implement the supposed
project using Enriles PDAF. Note that without the project identification, no justification
existed to release Enriles PDAF to Napoles allegedly bogus NGO.

In these lights, the identified project and Napoles NGO are material facts that
should be clearly and definitely stated in the Information to allow Enrile to adequately
prepare his defense evidence on the specific transaction pointed to. The omission of
these details will necessarily leave Enrile guessing on what transaction/s he will have to
defend against, since he may have funded other projects with his PDAF. Specification
will also allow him to object to evidence not referred to or covered by the Informations
ultimate facts.

D.2.d. The Government Agencies Serving as Conduits

The government agencies to whom Enrile endorsed Napoles NGOs are also material
facts that must be specified, since they served a necessary role in the crime charged
the alleged conduits between Enrile and Napoles NGOs. They were
indispensable participants in the elaborate scheme alleged to have been committed.

The particular person/s in each government agency who facilitated the transactions,
need not anymore be named in the Information, as these are already evidentiary
matters. The identification of the particular agency vis--vis Napoles NGO and the
identified project, will already inform Enrile of the transaction referred to.

In Tantuico v. Republic,101 the Republic filed a case for reconveyance, reversion,


accounting, restitution, and damages before the Sandiganbayan against former
President Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Benjamin Romualdez, and Francisco
Tantuico, Jr. Tantuico filed a motion for bill of particulars essentially alleging that the
complaint was couched in general terms and did not have the particulars that would
inform him of the alleged factual and legal bases. The Sandiganbayan denied his motion
on the ground that the particulars sought are evidentiary in nature. Tantuico moved to
reconsider this decision, but the Sandiganbayan again denied his motion.

The Court overturned the Sandiganbayans ruling and directed the prosecution to
prepare and file a bill of particulars. Significantly, the Court held that the particulars
prayed for, such as: names of persons, names of corporations, dates, amounts
involved, a specification of property for identification purposes, the particular
transactions involving withdrawals and disbursements, and a statement of
other material facts as would support the conclusions and inferences in the
complaint, are not evidentiary in nature. The Court explained that those particulars
are material facts that should be clearly and definitely averred in the complaint so that
the defendant may be fairly informed of the claims made against him and be prepared to
meet the issues at the trial.

To be sure, the differences between ultimate and evidentiary matters are not easy to
distinguish. While Tantuico was a civil case and did not involve the crime of plunder, the
Courts ruling nonetheless serves as a useful guide in the determination of what matters
are indispensable and what matters may be omitted in the Information, in relation with
the constitutional right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him.

In the present case, the particulars on the:LawlibraryofCRAlaw


(1) projects involved;

(2) Napoles participating NGOs; and

(3) the government agency involved in each transaction


will undoubtedly provide Enrile with sufficient data to know the specific transactions
involved, and thus enable him to prepare adequately and intelligently whatever defense
or defenses he may have.

We reiterate that the purpose of a bill of particular is to clarify allegations in the


Information that are indefinite, vague, or are conclusions of law to enable the accused
to properly plead and prepare for trial, not simply to inform him of the crime of
which he stands accused. Verily, an accused cannot intelligently respond to the
charge laid if the allegations are incomplete or are unclear to him.

We are aware that in a prosecution for plunder, what is sought to be established is the
commission of the criminal acts in furtherance of the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth. In
the language of Section 4 of R.A. No. 7080, for purposes of establishing the crime of
plunder, it is sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or
criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy to amass,
accumulate, or acquire ill-gotten wealth.102redarclaw

The term overall unlawful scheme indicates a general plan of action or method that
the principal accused and public officer and others conniving with him follow to achieve
their common criminal goal. In the alternative, if no overall scheme can be found or
where the schemes or methods used by the multiple accused vary, the overt or criminal
acts must form part of a conspiracy to attain a common criminal goal.103redarclaw

Lest Section 4 be misunderstood as allowing the prosecution to allege that a set of acts
has been repeatedly done (thereby showing a pattern of overt criminal acts), as has
been done in the present case, we point out that this section does not dispense with the
requirement of stating the essential or material facts of each component or predicate act
of plunder; it merely prescribes a rule of procedure for the prosecution of
plunder.

In Estrada v. Sandiganbayan,104 we construed this procedural rule to mean that [w]hat


the prosecution needed to prove beyond reasonable doubt was only the number of acts
sufficient to form a combination or series that would constitute a pattern involving an
amount of at least P50,000,000.00. There was no need to prove each and every other
act alleged in the Information to have been committed by the accused in furtherance of
the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate, or acquire ill-gotten
wealth.105redarclaw

If, for example, the accused is charged in the Information of malversing public funds on
twenty different (20) occasions, the prosecution does not need to prove all 20
transactions; it suffices if a number of these acts of malversation can be proven with
moral certainty, provided only that the series or combination of transaction would
amount to at least P50,000,000.00. Nonetheless, each of the twenty transactions
should be averred with particularity, more so if the circumstances surrounding
each transaction are not the same. This is the only way that the accused can
properly prepare for his defense during trial.

D.3. Paragraph (b) of the Information

As his last requested point, Enrile wants the prosecution to provide the details of the
allegation under paragraph (b) of the Information (i.e., x x x by taking undue
advantage, on several occasions, of their official position, authority, relationships,
connections, and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the
damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines) in the
following manner:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
Provide the details of how Enrile took undue advantage, on several occasions, of his
official positions, authority, relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly enrich
himself at the expense and to the damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the
Republic of the Philippines. Was this because he received any money from the
government? From whom and for what reason did he receive any money or property
from the government through which he unjustly enriched himself? State the details
from whom each amount was received, the place and the time.
Our ruling on Enriles desired details specifically, the particular overt act/s alleged to
constitute the combination and series charged in the Information; a breakdown of
the amounts of the kickbacks and commissions allegedly received, stating how the
amount of P172,834,500.00 was arrived at; a brief description of the identified projects
where kickbacks and commissions were received; the approximate dates of receipt of
the alleged kickbacks and commissions from the identified projects; the name of
Napoles non-government organizations (NGOs) which were the alleged recipients
and/or target implementors of Enriles PDAF projects; and the government agencies to
whom Enrile allegedly endorsed Napoles NGOs renders it unnecessary to require
the prosecution to submit further particulars on the allegations contained
under paragraph (b) of the Information.

Simply put, the particular overt acts alleged to constitute the combination or series
required by the crime of plunder, coupled with a specification of the other non-
evidentiary details stated above, already answer the question of how Enrile took undue
advantage of his position, authority, relationships, connections and influence as Senator
to unjustly enrich himself.

We also point out that the PDAF is a discretionary fund intended solely for public
purposes. Since the Information stated that Enrile, as Philippine Senator, committed
the offense in relation to his office, by repeatedly receiving kickbacks or commissions
from Napoles and/or her representatives through projects funded by his (Enriles) PDAF,
then it already alleged how undue advantage had been taken and how the Filipino
people and the Republic had been prejudiced. These points are fairly deducible from the
allegations in the Information as supplemented by the required particulars.

E. The Grave Abuse of Discretion

In the light of all these considerations, we hold that the Sandiganbayans denial of
the petitioners motion for a bill of particulars, on the ground that the details
sought to be itemized or specified are all evidentiary without any explanation
supporting this conclusion constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

As discussed above, some of the desired details are material facts that must be alleged
to enable the petitioner to properly plead and prepare his defense. The Sandiganbayan
should have diligently sifted through each detail sought to be specified, and made the
necessary determination of whether each detail was an ultimate or evidentiary fact,
particularly after Enrile stated in his Reply that the desired details could not be found
in the bundle of documents marked by the prosecution. We cannot insist or speculate
that he is feigning ignorance of the presence of these desired details; neither can we put
on him the burden of unearthing from these voluminous documents what the desired
details are. The remedy of a bill of particulars is precisely made available by the Rules to
enable an accused to positively respond and make an intelligent defense.

Justice Carpios reference to the voluminous 144-page Ombudsmans resolution (which


found probable cause to indict the petitioner and his co-accused not only of the crime of
plunder, but also for violations of several counts of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice
Act) to justify his argument that Enrile was already aware of the details he seeks in his
motion for a bill of particulars, all the more strengthens our conclusive position that the
Information for plunder filed against Enrile was ambiguous and glaringly insufficient to
enable him to make a proper plea and to prepare for trial. We reiterate, to the point of
being repetitive, that the purpose of the bill of particulars in criminal cases is to supply
vague facts or allegations in the complaint or information to enable the accused to
properly plead and prepare for trial.

Moreover, a resolution arising from a preliminary investigation does not amount to nor
does it serve the purpose of a bill of particulars.

A bill of particulars guards against the taking of an accused by surprise by restricting


the scope of the proof;106it limits the evidence to be presented by the parties to
the matters alleged in the Information as supplemented by the bill. It is for this
reason that the failure of an accused to move for a bill of particulars deprives him of the
right to object to evidence which could be lawfully introduced and admitted under an
information of more or less general terms which sufficiently charges the defendants with
a definite crime.

The record on preliminary investigation, in comparison, serves as the written account of


the inquisitorial process when the fiscal determined the existence of prima
facie evidence to indict a person for a particular crime. The record of the preliminary
investigation, as a general rule, does not even form part of the records of the
case.107 These features of the record of investigation are significantly different from the
bill of particulars that serves as basis, together with the Information, in specifying the
overt acts constituting the offense that the accused pleaded to during arraignment.

Notably, plunder is a crime composed of several predicate criminal acts. To prove


plunder, the prosecution must weave a web out of the six ways of illegally
amassing wealth and show how the various acts reveal a combination or series
of means or schemes that reveal a pattern of criminality. The interrelationship of
the separate acts must be shown and be established as a scheme to accumulate ill-
gotten wealth amounting to at least P50 million.
Plunder thus involves intricate predicate criminal acts and numerous transactions and
schemes that span a period of time. Naturally, in its prosecution, the State possesses an
effective flexibility of proving a predicate criminal act or transaction, not originally
contemplated in the Information, but is otherwise included in the broad statutory
definition, in light of subsequently discovered evidence. The unwarranted use of the
flexibility is what the bill of particulars guards against.

Justice Carpio further argues that the ponencia transformed the nature of an
action from an accusation in writing charging a person with an offense to an
initiatory pleading alleging a cause of action.

We see nothing wrong with such treatment, for a motion for a bill of particulars in
criminal cases is designed to achieve the same purpose as the motion for a bill of
particulars in civil cases. In fact, certainty, to a reasonable extent, is an essential
attribute of all pleadings, both civil and criminal, and is more especially needed in the
latter where conviction is followed by penal consequences.108redarclaw

Thus, even if the Information employs the statutory words does not mean that it is
unnecessary to allege such facts in connection with the commission of the offense as will
certainly put the accused on full notice of what he is called upon to defend, and establish
such a record as will effectually bar a subsequent prosecution for that identical
offense.109redarclaw

Notably, conviction for plunder carries with it the penalty of capital


punishment; for this reason, more process is due, not less. When a persons life
interest protected by the life, liberty, and property language recognized in the due
process clause is at stake in the proceeding, all measures must be taken to ensure the
protection of those fundamental rights.

As we emphasized in Republic v. Sandiganbayan,110 the administration of justice is not


a matter of guesswork. The name of the game is fair play, not foul play. We cannot
allow a legal skirmish where, from the start, one of the protagonists enters the arena
with one arm tied to his back.

Finally, we find no significance in Justice Carpios argument that Atty. Estelito Mendoza
did not previously find vague the Information for plunder filed against President Joseph
Estrada in 2001.

Under the amended Information111 against Estrada, et al., each overt act that
constituted the series or combination and corresponding to the predicate acts under
Section 1(d) had been averred with sufficient particularity so that there was no doubt
what particular transaction was referred to.

We point out that unlike in the Information against Enrile, the following matters had
been averred with sufficient definiteness, viz: the predicate acts that constitute the
crime of plunder; the breakdown of how the alleged amount of P4,097,804,173.17,
more or less, had been arrived at; the participants involved in each transaction; and the
specific sources of the illegal wealth amassed.

At any rate, that Atty. Mendoza did not previously question the indictment of President
Estrada via a motion for bill of particulars does not ipso facto mean that the present
Information for plunder filed against Enrile is not vague and ambiguous.

Sandiganbayan Ground #2:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

That Enriles cited grounds are reiterations of the grounds previously raised

Enrile does not deny that the arguments he raised in his supplemental opposition to
issuance of a warrant of arrest and for dismissal of informationand in his motion for bill
of particulars were identical. He argues, however, that the mere reiteration of these
grounds should not be a ground for the denial of his motion for bill of particulars, since
the context in which those questions were raised was entirely different.

While both the motion to dismiss the Information and the motion for bill of particulars
involved the right of an accused to due process, the enumeration of the details desired
in Enriles supplemental opposition to issuance of a warrant of arrest and for dismissal of
information and in his motion for bill of particulars are different viewed particularly from
the prism of their respective objectives.

In the former, Enrile took the position that the Information did not state a crime for
which he can be convicted; thus, the Information is void; he alleged a defect of
substance. In the latter, he already impliedly admits that the Information sufficiently
alleged a crime but is unclear and lacking in details that would allow him to properly
plead and prepare his defense; he essentially alleged here a defect of form.

Note that in the former, the purpose is to dismiss the Information for its failure to state
the nature and cause of the accusation against Enrile; while the details desired in
the latter (the motion for bill of particulars) are required to be specified in sufficient
detail because the allegations in the Information are vague, indefinite, or in the form of
conclusions and will not allow Enrile to adequately prepare his defense unless
specifications are made.

That every element constituting the offense had been alleged in the
Information does not preclude the accused from requesting for more specific
details of the various acts or omissions he is alleged to have committed. The
request for details is precisely the function of a bill of particulars.

Hence, while the information may be sufficient for purposes of stating the cause and the
crime an accused is charged, the allegations may still be inadequate for purposes of
enabling him to properly plead and prepare for trial.

We likewise find no complete congruence between the grounds invoked and the details
sought by Enrile in his motion for bill of particulars, and the grounds invoked in opposing
the warrant for his arrest issued, so that the Sandiganbayans action in one would bar
Enrile from essentially invoking the same grounds.

The judicial determination of probable cause is one made by the judge to ascertain
whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused. The judge must
satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is necessity for placing the
accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice.112 Simply put, the
judge determines whether the necessity exists to place the accused under immediate
custody to avoid frustrating the ends of justice.

On the other hand, the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure grants the accused the
remedy of a bill of particulars to better inform himself of the specifics or particulars
concerning facts or matters that had not been averred in the Information with the
necessary clarity for purposes of his defense.

Its purpose is to better acquaint the accused of the specific acts and/or omissions in
relation with the crime charged, to limit the matters and the evidence that the
prosecution may otherwise be allowed to use against him under a more or less general
averment, and to meet the charges head on and timely object to evidence whose
inadmissibility may otherwise be deemed waived.

Based on these considerations, the question of whether there is probable cause to issue
a warrant of arrest against an accused, is separate and distinct from the issue of
whether the allegations in the Information have been worded with sufficient definiteness
to enable the accused to properly plead and prepare his defense. While the grounds
cited for each may seemingly be the same, they are submitted for different purposes
and should be appreciated from different perspectives, so that the insufficiency of these
grounds for one does not necessarily translate to insufficiency for the other. Thus, the
resolution of the issue of probable cause should not bar Enrile from seeking a more
detailed averment of the allegations in the Information.

The Sandiganbayan grossly missed these legal points and thus gravely abused its
discretion: it used wrong and completely inapplicable considerations to support
its conclusion.

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

a. We PARTIALLY GRANT the present petition for certiorari, and SET ASIDE the
Sandiganbayans resolutions dated July 11, 2014, which denied Enriles motion for bill of
particulars and his motion for reconsideration of this denial.

b. We DIRECT the People of the Philippines to SUBMIT, within a non-extendible


period of fifteen (15) days from finality of this Decision, with copy furnished to
Enrile, a bill of particulars containing the facts sought that we herein rule to be material
and necessary. The bill of particulars shall specifically contain the
following:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
1. The particular overt act/s alleged to constitute the combination or series of
overt criminal acts charged in the Information.

2. A breakdown of the amounts of the kickbacks or commissions allegedly


received, stating how the amount of P172,834,500.00 was arrived at.

3. A brief description of the identified projects where kickbacks or


commissions were received.

4. The approximate dates of receipt, in 2004 to 2010 or thereabout, of the


alleged kickbacks and commissions from the identified projects. At the very
least, the prosecution should state the year when the kickbacks and
transactions from the identified projects were received.

5. The name of Napoles non-government organizations (NGOs) which were the


alleged recipients and/or target implementors of Enriles PDAF projects.

6. The government agencies to whom Enrile allegedly endorsed Napoles NGOs.


The particular person/s in each government agency who facilitated the
transactions need not be named as a particular.
All particulars prayed for that are not included in the above are hereby denied.

SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

Sereno, C.J., Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Perez, and Mendoza, JJ.,
concur.
Carpio, J., Please see Dissenting Opinion.
Peralta, J., I join J. Bernabe's Opinion.
Del Castillo, J., I join the Dissent of J. Carpio.
Villarama, Jr., J., I join J. Carpio in his Dissenting Opinion.
Reyes, J., on leave.
Perlas-Bernabe, J., Please see Concurring Opinion.
Leonen, J., I join dissent of J. Carpio. see separate opinion.
Jardeleza, J., no part.
SECTION 10. Production or Inspection of Material Evidence in Possession of Prosecution.

ANTONIO LEJANO, G.R. No. 176389


Petitioner,
Present:
CORONA, C.J.,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
- versus - BRION,
PERALTA,
BERSAMIN,
DEL CASTILLO,
ABAD,
VILLARAMA, JR.,
PEREZ,
MENDOZA, and
SERENO, JJ.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent.

x --------------------------------------------- x

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 176864


Appellee,

- versus -

HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB,


ANTONIO LEJANO, MICHAEL
A. GATCHALIAN, HOSPICIO
FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ,
PETER ESTRADA and GERARDO Promulgated:
BIONG,
Appellants. December 14, 2010
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION
ABAD, J.:

Brief Background

On June 30, 1991 Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela, nineteen years old, and
Jennifer, seven, were brutally slain at their home in Paraaque City. Following an intense
investigation, the police arrested a group of suspects, some of whom gave detailed
confessions. But the trial court smelled a frame-up and eventually ordered them discharged. Thus,
the identities of the real perpetrators remained a mystery especially to the public whose interests
were aroused by the gripping details of what everybody referred to as the Vizconde massacre.
Four years later in 1995, the National Bureau of Investigation or NBI announced that it had
solved the crime. It presented star-witness Jessica M. Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed
that she witnessed the crime. She pointed to accused Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Tony Boy
Lejano, Artemio Dong Ventura, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio Pyke Fernandez, Peter Estrada,
Miguel Ging Rodriguez, and Joey Filart as the culprits. She also tagged accused police officer,
Gerardo Biong, as an accessory after the fact. Relying primarily on Alfaro's testimony, on August
10, 1995 the public prosecutors filed an information for rape with homicide against Webb, et al.[1]

The Regional Trial Court of Paraaque City, Branch 274, presided over by Judge Amelita
G. Tolentino, tried only seven of the accused since Artemio Ventura and Joey Filart remained at
large.[2] The prosecution presented Alfaro as its main witness with the others corroborating her
testimony. These included the medico-legal officer who autopsied the bodies of the victims, the
security guards of Pitong Daan Subdivision, the former laundrywoman of the Webbs household,
police officer Biongs former girlfriend, and Lauro G. Vizconde, Estrellitas husband.

For their part, some of the accused testified, denying any part in the crime and saying they
were elsewhere when it took place. Webbs alibi appeared the strongest since he claimed that he
was then across the ocean in the United States of America. He presented the testimonies of
witnesses as well as documentary and object evidence to prove this. In addition, the defense
presented witnesses to show Alfaro's bad reputation for truth and the incredible nature of her
testimony.

But impressed by Alfaros detailed narration of the crime and the events surrounding it, the
trial court found a credible witness in her. It noted her categorical, straightforward, spontaneous,
and frank testimony, undamaged by grueling cross-examinations. The trial court remained
unfazed by significant discrepancies between Alfaros April 28 and May 22, 1995 affidavits,
accepting her explanation that she at first wanted to protect her former boyfriend, accused Estrada,
and a relative, accused Gatchalian; that no lawyer assisted her; that she did not trust the
investigators who helped her prepare her first affidavit; and that she felt unsure if she would get
the support and security she needed once she disclosed all about the Vizconde killings.

In contrast, the trial court thought little of the denials and alibis that Webb, Lejano,
Rodriguez, and Gatchalian set up for their defense. They paled, according to the court, compared
to Alfaros testimony that other witnesses and the physical evidence corroborated. Thus, on
January 4, 2000, after four years of arduous hearings, the trial court rendered judgment, finding
all the accused guilty as charged and imposing on Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada,
and Rodriguez the penalty of reclusion perpetua and on Biong, an indeterminate prison term of
eleven years, four months, and one day to twelve years. The trial court also awarded damages to
Lauro Vizconde.[3]

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision, modifying the penalty
imposed on Biong to six years minimum and twelve years maximum and increasing the award of
damages to Lauro Vizconde.[4] The appellate court did not agree that the accused were tried by
publicity or that the trial judge was biased. It found sufficient evidence of conspiracy that
rendered Rodriguez, Gatchalian, Fernandez, and Estrada equally guilty with those who had a part
in raping and killing Carmela and in executing her mother and sister.
On motion for reconsideration by the accused, the Court of Appeals' Special Division of
five members voted three against two to deny the motion,[5] hence, the present appeal.

On April 20, 2010, as a result of its initial deliberation in this case, the Court issued a
Resolution granting the request of Webb to submit for DNA analysis the semen specimen taken
from Carmelas cadaver, which specimen was then believed still under the safekeeping of the
NBI. The Court granted the request pursuant to section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence[6] to give
the accused and the prosecution access to scientific evidence that they might want to avail
themselves of, leading to a correct decision in the case.

Unfortunately, on April 27, 2010 the NBI informed the Court that it no longer has custody
of the specimen, the same having been turned over to the trial court. The trial record shows,
however, that the specimen was not among the object evidence that the prosecution offered in
evidence in the case.

This outcome prompted accused Webb to file an urgent motion to acquit on the ground that
the governments failure to preserve such vital evidence has resulted in the denial of his right to
due process.

Issues Presented

Accused Webbs motion to acquit presents a threshold issue: whether or not the Court
should acquit him outright, given the governments failure to produce the semen specimen that the
NBI found on Carmelas cadaver, thus depriving him of evidence that would prove his innocence.

In the main, all the accused raise the central issue of whether or not Webb, acting in
conspiracy with Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, Ventura, and Filart, raped
and killed Carmela and put to death her mother and sister. But, ultimately, the controlling issues
are:

1. Whether or not Alfaros testimony as eyewitness, describing the crime and identifying
Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and two others as the persons who
committed it, is entitled to belief; and

2. Whether or not Webb presented sufficient evidence to prove his alibi and rebut Alfaros
testimony that he led the others in committing the crime.

The issue respecting accused Biong is whether or not he acted to cover up the crime after
its commission.

The Right to Acquittal


Due to Loss of DNA Evidence

Webb claims, citing Brady v. Maryland,[7] that he is entitled to outright acquittal on the
ground of violation of his right to due process given the States failure to produce on order of the
Court either by negligence or willful suppression the semen specimen taken from Carmela.
The medical evidence clearly established that Carmela was raped and, consistent with this,
semen specimen was found in her. It is true that Alfaro identified Webb in her testimony as
Carmelas rapist and killer but serious questions had been raised about her credibility. At the very
least, there exists a possibility that Alfaro had lied. On the other hand, the semen specimen taken
from Carmela cannot possibly lie. It cannot be coached or allured by a promise of reward or
financial support. No two persons have the same DNA fingerprint, with the exception of identical
twins.[8] If, on examination, the DNA of the subject specimen does not belong to Webb, then he
did not rape Carmela. It is that simple. Thus, the Court would have been able to determine that
Alfaro committed perjury in saying that he did.

Still, Webb is not entitled to acquittal for the failure of the State to produce the semen
specimen at this late stage. For one thing, the ruling in Brady v. Maryland[9] that he cites has long
be overtaken by the decision in Arizona v. Youngblood,[10] where the U.S. Supreme Court held
that due process does not require the State to preserve the semen specimen although it might be
useful to the accused unless the latter is able to show bad faith on the part of the prosecution or
the police. Here, the State presented a medical expert who testified on the existence of the
specimen and Webb in fact sought to have the same subjected to DNA test.

For, another, when Webb raised the DNA issue, the rule governing DNA evidence did not
yet exist, the country did not yet have the technology for conducting the test, and no Philippine
precedent had as yet recognized its admissibility as evidence. Consequently, the idea of keeping
the specimen secure even after the trial court rejected the motion for DNA testing did not come
up. Indeed, neither Webb nor his co-accused brought up the matter of preserving the specimen in
the meantime.

Parenthetically, after the trial court denied Webbs application for DNA testing, he allowed
the proceeding to move on when he had on at least two occasions gone up to the Court of Appeals
or the Supreme Court to challenge alleged arbitrary actions taken against him and the other
accused.[11] They raised the DNA issue before the Court of Appeals but merely as an error
committed by the trial court in rendering its decision in the case.None of the accused filed a
motion with the appeals court to have the DNA test done pending adjudication of their
appeal. This, even when the Supreme Court had in the meantime passed the rules allowing such
test. Considering the accuseds lack of interest in having such test done, the State cannot be
deemed put on reasonable notice that it would be required to produce the semen specimen at some
future time.

Now, to the merit of the case.

Alfaros Story

Based on the prosecutions version, culled from the decisions of the trial court and the Court
of Appeals, on June 29, 1991 at around 8:30 in the evening, Jessica Alfaro drove her Mitsubishi
Lancer, with boyfriend Peter Estrada as passenger, to
the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center parking lot to buy shabu from Artemio
Dong Ventura. There, Ventura introduced her to his friends: Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio
Tony Boy Lejano, Miguel Ging Rodriguez, Hospicio Pyke Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian, and
Joey Filart. Alfaro recalled frequently seeing them at a shabu house in Paraaque in January 1991,
except Ventura whom she had known earlier in December 1990.

As Alfaro smoked her shabu, Webb approached and requested her to relay a message for
him to a girl, whom she later identified as Carmela Vizconde. Alfaro agreed. After using up their
shabu, the group drove to Carmelas house at 80 Vinzons Street, Pitong Daan Subdivision, BF
Homes, Paraaque City. Riding in her car, Alfaro and Estrada trailed Filart and Rodriguez who
rode a Mazda pick-up and Webb, Lejano, Ventura, Fernandez, and Gatchalian who were on a
Nissan Patrol car.

On reaching their destination, Alfaro parked her car on Vinzons Street, alighted, and
approached Carmelas house. Alfaro pressed the buzzer and a woman came out. Alfaro queried
her about Carmela. Alfaro had met Carmela twice before in January 1991. When Carmela came
out, Alfaro gave her Webbs message that he was just around. Carmela replied, however, that she
could not go out yet since she had just arrived home. She told Alfaro to return after twenty
minutes. Alfaro relayed this to Webb who then told the group to drive back to
the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center.

The group had another shabu session at the parking lot. After sometime, they drove back
but only Alfaro proceeded to Vinzons Street where Carmela lived. The Nissan Patrol and the
Mazda pick-up, with their passengers, parked somewhere along Aguirre Avenue. Carmela was at
their garden. She approached Alfaro on seeing her and told the latter that she (Carmela) had to
leave the house for a while. Carmela requested Alfaro to return before midnight and she would
leave the pedestrian gate, the iron grills that led to the kitchen, and the kitchen door
unlocked. Carmela also told Alfaro to blink her cars headlights twice when she approached the
pedestrian gate so Carmela would know that she had arrived.

Alfaro returned to her car but waited for Carmela to drive out of the house in her own
car. Alfaro trailed Carmela up to Aguirre Avenue where she dropped off a man whom Alfaro
believed was Carmelas boyfriend. Alfaro looked for her group, found them, and relayed Carmelas
instructions to Webb. They then all went back to the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center. At the
parking lot, Alfaro told the group about her talk with Carmela. When she told Webb of Carmelas
male companion, Webbs mood changed for the rest of the evening (bad trip).

Webb gave out free cocaine. They all used it and some shabu, too. After about 40 to 45
minutes, Webb decided that it was time for them to leave. He said, Pipilahan natin
siya [Carmela] at ako ang mauuna. Lejano said, Ako ang susunod and the others
responded Okay, okay. They all left the parking lot in a convoy of three vehicles and drove into
Pitong Daan Subdivision for the third time. They arrived at Carmelas house shortly before
midnight.

Alfaro parked her car between Vizcondes house and the next. While waiting for the others
to alight from their cars, Fernandez approached Alfaro with a suggestion that they blow up the
transformer near the Vizcondes residence to cause a brownout (Pasabugin kaya natin ang
transformer na ito). But Alfaro shrugged off the idea, telling Fernandez, Malakas lang ang tama
mo. When Webb, Lejano, and Ventura were already before the house, Webb told the others again
that they would line up for Carmela but he would be the first. The others replied, O sige, dito lang
kami, magbabantay lang kami.

Alfaro was the first to pass through the pedestrian gate that had been left open. Webb,
Lejano, and Ventura followed her. On entering the garage, Ventura using a chair mounted the
hood of the Vizcondes Nissan Sentra and loosened the electric bulb over it (para daw walang
ilaw). The small group went through the open iron grill gate and passed the dirty kitchen. Carmela
opened the aluminum screen door of the kitchen for them.She and Webb looked each other in the
eyes for a moment and, together, headed for the dining area.

As she lost sight of Carmela and Webb, Alfaro decided to go out. Lejano asked her where
she was going and she replied that she was going out to smoke. As she eased her way out through
the kitchen door, she saw Ventura pulling out a kitchen drawer. Alfaro smoked a cigarette at the
garden.After about twenty minutes, she was surprised to hear a womans voice ask, Sino
yan? Alfaro immediately walked out of the garden to her car. She found her other companions
milling around it. Estrada who sat in the car asked her, Okay ba?

After sitting in the car for about ten minutes, Alfaro returned to the Vizconde house, using
the same route. The interior of the house was dark but some light filtered in from outside. In the
kitchen, Alfaro saw Ventura searching a ladys bag that lay on the dining table. When she asked
him what he was looking for, he said: Ikaw na nga dito, maghanap ka ng susi. She asked him
what key he wanted and he replied: Basta maghanap ka ng susi ng main door pati na rin ng susi
ng kotse. When she found a bunch of keys in the bag, she tried them on the main door but none
fitted the lock.She also did not find the car key.

Unable to open the main door, Alfaro returned to the kitchen. While she was at a spot
leading to the dining area, she heard a static noise (like a television that remained on after the
station had signed off). Out of curiosity, she approached the masters bedroom from where the
noise came, opened the door a little, and peeked inside. The unusual sound grew even louder. As
she walked in, she saw Webb on top of Carmela while she lay with her back on the floor. Two
bloodied bodies lay on the bed. Lejano was at the foot of the bed about to wear his jacket. Carmela
was gagged, moaning, and in tears while Webb raped her, his bare buttocks exposed.

Webb gave Alfaro a meaningful look and she immediately left the room. She
met Ventura at the dining area. He told her, Prepare an escape.Aalis na tayo. Shocked with what
she saw, Alfaro rushed out of the house to the others who were either sitting in her car or milling
on the sidewalk.She entered her car and turned on the engine but she did not know where to
go. Webb, Lejano, and Ventura came out of the house just then. Webb suddenly picked up a stone
and threw it at the main door, breaking its glass frame.

As the three men approached the pedestrian gate, Webb told Ventura that he forgot his
jacket in the house. But Ventura told him that they could not get in anymore as the iron grills had
already locked. They all rode in their cars and drove away until they reached Aguirre Avenue. As
they got near an old hotel at the Tropical Palace area, Alfaro noticed the Nissan Patrol slow
down. Someone threw something out of the car into the cogonal area.
The convoy of cars went to a large house with high walls, concrete fence, steel gate, and a
long driveway at BF Executive Village. They entered the compound and gathered at the lawn
where the blaming session took place. It was here that Alfaro and those who remained outside the
Vizconde house learned of what happened. The first to be killed was Carmelas mother, then
Jennifer, and finally, Carmella. Ventura blamed Webb, telling him, Bakit naman pati yung
bata? Webb replied that the girl woke up and on seeing him molesting Carmela, she jumped on
him, bit his shoulders, and pulled his hair. Webb got mad, grabbed the girl, pushed her to the wall,
and repeatedly stabbed her. Lejano excused himself at this point to use the telephone in the
house. Meanwhile, Webb called up someone on his cellular phone.

At around 2:00 in the morning, accused Gerardo Biong arrived. Webb ordered him to go
and clean up the Vizconde house and said to him, Pera lang ang katapat nyan. Biong
answered, Okay lang. Webb spoke to his companions and told them, We dont know each
other. We havent seen each otherbaka maulit yan. Alfaro and Estrada left and they drove to her
fathers house.[12]

1. The quality of the witness

Was Alfaro an ordinary subdivision girl who showed up at the NBI after four years,
bothered by her conscience or egged on by relatives or friends to come forward and do what was
right? No. She was, at the time she revealed her story, working for the NBI as an asset, a stool
pigeon, one who earned her living by fraternizing with criminals so she could squeal on them to
her NBI handlers. She had to live a life of lies to get rewards that would pay for her subsistence
and vices.

According to Atty. Artemio Sacaguing, former head of the NBI Anti-Kidnapping,


Hijacking, and Armed Robbery Task Force (AKHAR) Section, Alfaro had been hanging around
at the NBI since November or December 1994 as an asset. She supplied her handlers with
information against drug pushers and other criminal elements. Some of this information led to the
capture of notorious drug pushers like Christopher Cruz Santos and Orlando Bacquir. Alfaros tip
led to the arrest of the leader of the Martilyo gang that killed a police officer. Because of her
talent, the task force gave her very special treatment and she became its darling, allowed the
privilege of spending nights in one of the rooms at the NBI offices.

When Alfaro seemed unproductive for sometime, however, they teased her about it and
she was piqued. One day, she unexpectedly told Sacaguing that she knew someone who had the
real story behind the Vizconde massacre. Sacaguing showed interest. Alfaro promised to bring
that someone to the NBI to tell his story. When this did not happen and Sacaguing continued to
press her, she told him that she might as well assume the role of her informant. Sacaguing testified
thus:

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. Atty. Sacaguing, how did Jessica Alfaro become a witness in the Vizconde
murder case? Will you tell the Honorable Court?
xxxx
A. She told me. Your Honor, that she knew somebody who related to her the
circumstances, I mean, the details of the massacre of the Vizconde
family.Thats what she told me, Your Honor.

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. And what did you say?

xxxx

A. I was quite interested and I tried to persuade her to introduce to me that man
and she promised that in due time, she will bring to me the man, and
together with her, we will try to convince him to act as a state witness and
help us in the solution of the case.

xxxx

Q. Atty. Sacaguing, were you able to interview this alleged witness?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. No, sir.

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. Why not?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. Because Jessica Alfaro was never able to comply with her promise to bring the
man to me. She told me later that she could not and the man does not like to
testify.

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. All right, and what happened after that?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. She told me, easy lang kayo, Sir, if I may quote, easy lang Sir, huwag kayong

COURT:
How was that?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. Easy lang, Sir. Sir, relax lang, Sir, papapelan ko, papapelan ko na lang yan.

xxxx

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. All right, and what was your reaction when Ms. Alfaro stated that papapelan
ko na lang yan?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. I said, hindi puwede yan, kasi hindi ka naman eye witness.

ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. And what was the reply of Ms. Alfaro?

WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. Hindi siya nakakibo, until she went away.
(TSN, May 28, 1996, pp. 49-50, 58, 77-79)

Quite significantly, Alfaro never refuted Sacaguings above testimony.

2. The suspicious details

But was it possible for Alfaro to lie with such abundant details some of which even tallied
with the physical evidence at the scene of the crime?No doubt, yes.

Firstly, the Vizconde massacre had been reported in the media with dizzying
details. Everybody was talking about what the police found at the crime scene and there were lots
of speculations about them.

Secondly, the police had arrested some akyat-bahay group in Paraaque and charged them
with the crime. The police prepared the confessions of the men they apprehended and filled these
up with details that the evidence of the crime scene provided. Alfaros NBI handlers who were
doing their own investigation knew of these details as well. Since Alfaro hanged out at the NBI
offices and practically lived there, it was not too difficult for her to hear of these evidentiary
details and gain access to the documents.

Not surprisingly, the confessions of some members of the Barroso akyat bahay gang,
condemned by the Makati RTC as fabricated by the police to pin the crime on them, shows how
crime investigators could make a confession ring true by matching some of its details with the
physical evidence at the crime scene. Consider the following:

a. The Barroso gang members said that they got into Carmelas house by breaking the glass
panel of the front door using a stone wrapped in cloth to deaden the noise. Alfaro could not use
this line since the core of her story was that Webb was Carmelas boyfriend. Webb had no reason
to smash her front door to get to see her.

Consequently, to explain the smashed door, Alfaro had to settle for claiming that, on the
way out of the house, Webb picked up some stone and, out of the blue, hurled it at the glass-
paneled front door of the Vizconde residence. His action really made no sense. From Alfaros
narration, Webb appeared rational in his decisions. It was past midnight, the house was dark, and
they wanted to get away quickly to avoid detection. Hurling a stone at that glass door and causing
a tremendous noise was bizarre, like inviting the neighbors to come.

b. The crime scene showed that the house had been ransacked. The rejected confessions of
the Barroso akyat-bahay gang members said that they tried to rob the house. To explain this
physical evidence, Alfaro claimed that at one point Ventura was pulling a kitchen drawer, and at
another point, going through a handbag on the dining table. He said he was looking for the front-
door key and the car key.

Again, this portion of Alfaros story appears tortured to accommodate the physical evidence
of the ransacked house. She never mentioned Ventura having taken some valuables with him
when they left Carmelas house. And why would Ventura rummage a bag on the table for the
front-door key, spilling the contents, when they had already gotten into the house. It is a story
made to fit in with the crime scene although robbery was supposedly not the reason Webb and
his companions entered that house.

c. It is the same thing with the garage light. The police investigators found that the bulb
had been loosened to turn off the light. The confessions of the Barroso gang claimed that one of
them climbed the parked cars hood to reach up and darken that light. This made sense since they
were going to rob the place and they needed time to work in the dark trying to open the front
door. Some passersby might look in and see what they were doing.

Alfaro had to adjust her testimony to take into account that darkened garage light. So she
claimed that Ventura climbed the cars hood, using a chair, to turn the light off. But, unlike the
Barroso akyat-bahay gang, Webb and his friends did not have anything to do in a darkened
garage. They supposedly knew in advance that Carmela left the doors to the kitchen open for
them. It did not make sense for Ventura to risk standing on the cars hood and be seen in such an
awkward position instead of going straight into the house.
And, thirdly, Alfaro was the NBIs star witness, their badge of excellent investigative
work. After claiming that they had solved the crime of the decade, the NBI people had a stake in
making her sound credible and, obviously, they gave her all the preparations she needed for the
job of becoming a fairly good substitute witness. She was their darling of an asset. And this is not
pure speculation. As pointed out above, Sacaguing of the NBI, a lawyer and a ranking official,
confirmed this to be a cold fact. Why the trial court and the Court of Appeals failed to see this is
mystifying.

At any rate, did Alfaro at least have a fine memory for faces that had a strong effect on her,
given the circumstances? Not likely. She named Miguel Ging Rodriguez as one of the culprits in
the Vizconde killings. But when the NBI found a certain Michael Rodriguez, a drug dependent
from the Bicutan Rehabilitation Center, initially suspected to be Alfaros Miguel Rodriguez and
showed him to Alfaro at the NBI office, she ran berserk, slapping and kicking Michael,
exclaiming: How can I forget your face. We just saw each other in a disco one month ago and
you told me then that you will kill me. As it turned out, he was not Miguel Rodriguez, the accused
in this case.[13]

Two possibilities exist: Michael was really the one Alfaro wanted to implicate to settle
some score with him but it was too late to change the name she already gave or she had myopic
vision, tagging the wrong people for what they did not do.

3. The quality of the testimony

There is another thing about a lying witness: her story lacks sense or suffers from inherent
inconsistencies. An understanding of the nature of things and the common behavior of people
will help expose a lie. And it has an abundant presence in this case.

One. In her desire to implicate Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and Filart, who
were supposed to be Webbs co-principals in the crime, Alfaro made it a point to testify that Webb
proposed twice to his friends the gang-rape of Carmela who had hurt him. And twice, they
(including, if one believes Alfaro, her own boyfriend Estrada) agreed in a chorus to his
proposal. But when they got to Carmelas house, only Webb, Lejano, Ventura, and Alfaro entered
the house.

Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, and Rodriguez supposedly stayed around Alfaros car,
which was parked on the street between Carmelas house and the next. Some of these men sat on
top of the cars lid while others milled on the sidewalk, visible under the street light to anyone
who cared to watch them, particularly to the people who were having a drinking party in a nearby
house. Obviously, the behavior of Webbs companions out on the street did not figure in a planned
gang-rape of Carmela.
Two. Ventura, Alfaros dope supplier, introduced her for the first time in her life to Webb
and his friends in a parking lot by a mall. So why would she agree to act as Webbs messenger,
using her gas, to bring his message to Carmela at her home. More inexplicably, what motivated
Alfaro to stick it out the whole night with Webb and his friends?

They were practically strangers to her and her boyfriend Estrada. When it came to a point
that Webb decided with his friends to gang-rape Carmela, clearly, there was nothing in it for
Alfaro. Yet, she stuck it out with them, as a police asset would, hanging in there until she had a
crime to report, only she was not yet an asset then. If, on the other hand, Alfaro had been too
soaked in drugs to think clearly and just followed along where the group took her, how could she
remember so much details that only a drug-free mind can?

Three. When Alfaro went to see Carmela at her house for the second time, Carmella told
her that she still had to go out and that Webb and his friends should come back around
midnight. Alfaro returned to her car and waited for Carmela to drive out in her own car. And she
trailed her up to Aguirre Avenue where she supposedly dropped off a man whom she thought was
Carmelas boyfriend. Alfaros trailing Carmela to spy on her unfaithfulness to Webb did not make
sense since she was on limited errand. But, as a critical witness, Alfaro had to provide a reason
for Webb to freak out and decide to come with his friends and harm Carmela.

Four. According to Alfaro, when they returned to Carmelas house the third time around
midnight, she led Webb, Lejano, and Ventura through the pedestrian gate that Carmela had left
open. Now, this is weird. Webb was the gang leader who decided what they were going to do. He
decided and his friends agreed with him to go to Carmelas house and gang-rape her. Why would
Alfaro, a woman, a stranger to Webb before that night, and obviously with no role to play in the
gang-rape of Carmela, lead him and the others into her house? It made no sense. It would only
make sense if Alfaro wanted to feign being a witness to something she did not see.

Five. Alfaro went out of the house to smoke at the garden. After about twenty minutes, a
woman exclaimed, Sino yan? On hearing this, Alfaro immediately walked out of the garden and
went to her car. Apparently, she did this because she knew they came on a sly. Someone other
than Carmela became conscious of the presence of Webb and others in the house. Alfaro walked
away because, obviously, she did not want to get involved in a potential confrontation. This was
supposedly her frame of mind: fear of getting involved in what was not her business.

But if that were the case, how could she testify based on personal knowledge of what went
on in the house? Alfaro had to change that frame of mind to one of boldness and reckless
curiosity. So that is what she next claimed. She went back into the house to watch as Webb raped
Carmela on the floor of the masters bedroom. He had apparently stabbed to death Carmelas mom
and her young sister whose bloodied bodies were sprawled on the bed. Now, Alfaro testified that
she got scared (another shift to fear) for she hurriedly got out of the house after Webb supposedly
gave her a meaningful look.

Alfaro quickly went to her car, not minding Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez,
and Filart who sat on the car or milled on the sidewalk.She did not speak to them, even to Estrada,
her boyfriend. She entered her car and turned on the engine but she testified that she did not know
where to go. This woman who a few minutes back led Webb, Lejano, and Ventura into the house,
knowing that they were decided to rape and harm Carmela, was suddenly too shocked to know
where to go! This emotional pendulum swing indicates a witness who was confused with her own
lies.

4. The supposed corroborations

Intending to provide corroboration to Alfaros testimony, the prosecution presented six


additional witnesses:

Dr. Prospero A. Cabanayan, the NBI Medico-Legal Officer who autopsied the bodies of
the victims, testified on the stab wounds they sustained[14] and the presence of semen in Carmelas
genitalia,[15] indicating that she had been raped.

Normal E. White, Jr., was the security guard on duty at Pitong Daan Subdivision from 7
p.m. of June 29 to 7 a.m. of June 30, 1991. He got a report on the morning of June 30 that
something untoward happened at the Vizconde residence. He went there and saw the dead bodies
in the masters bedroom, the bag on the dining table, as well as the loud noise emanating from a
television set.[16]
White claimed that he noticed Gatchalian and his companions, none of whom he could
identify, go in and out of Pitong Daan Subdivision. He also saw them along Vinzons Street. Later,
they entered Pitong Daan Subdivision in a three-car convoy. White could not, however, describe
the kind of vehicles they used or recall the time when he saw the group in those two
instances. And he did not notice anything suspicious about their coming and going.

But Whites testimony cannot be relied on. His initial claim turned out to be inaccurate. He
actually saw Gatchalian and his group enter the Pitong Daan Subdivision only once. They were
not going in and out. Furthermore, Alfaro testified that when the convoy of cars went back the
second time in the direction of Carmelas house, she alone entered the subdivision and passed the
guardhouse without stopping. Yet, White who supposedly manned that guardhouse did not notice
her.

Surprisingly, White failed to note Biong, a police officer, entering or exiting the
subdivision on the early morning of June 30 when he supposedly cleaned up Vizconde residence
on Webbs orders. What is more, White did not notice Carmela arrive with her mom before Alfaros
first visit that night. Carmela supposedly left with a male companion in her car at around 10:30
p.m. but White did not notice it. He also did not notice Carmela reenter the subdivision. White
actually discredited Alfaros testimony about the movements of the persons involved.
Further, while Alfaro testified that it was the Mazda pick-up driven by Filart that led the
three-vehicle convoy,[17] White claimed it was the Nissan Patrol with Gatchalian on it that led the
convoy since he would not have let the convoy in without ascertaining that Gatchalian, a resident,
was in it. Security guard White did not, therefore, provide corroboration to Alfaros testimony.

Justo Cabanacan, the security supervisor at Pitong Daan Subdivision testified that he saw
Webb around the last week of May or the first week of June 1991 to prove his presence in the
Philippines when he claimed to be in the United States. He was manning the guard house at the
entrance of the subdivision of Pitong Daan when he flagged down a car driven by Webb. Webb
said that he would see Lilet Sy. Cabanacan asked him for an ID but he pointed to his United BF
Homes sticker and said that he resided there. Cabanacan replied, however, that Pitong Daan had
a local sticker.

Cabanacan testified that, at this point, Webb introduced himself as the son of Congressman
Webb. Still, the supervisor insisted on seeing his ID. Webb grudgingly gave it and after seeing
the picture and the name on it, Cabanacan returned the same and allowed Webb to pass without
being logged in as their Standard Operating Procedure required.[18]

But Cabanacan's testimony could not be relied on. Although it was not common for a
security guard to challenge a Congressmans son with such vehemence, Cabanacan did not log the
incident on the guardhouse book. Nor did he, contrary to prescribed procedure, record the visitors
entry into the subdivision. It did not make sense that Cabanacan was strict in the matter of seeing
Webbs ID but not in recording the visit.

Mila Gaviola used to work as laundry woman for the Webbs at their house at
BF Homes Executive Village. She testified that she saw Webb at his parents house on the
morning of June 30, 1991 when she got the dirty clothes from the room that he and two brothers
occupied at about 4.a.m. She saw him again pacing the floor at 9 a.m. At about 1 p.m., Webb left
the house in t-shirt and shorts, passing through a secret door near the maids quarters on the way
out. Finally, she saw Webb at 4 p.m. of the same day.[19]

On cross-examination, however, Gaviola could not say what distinguished June 30, 1991
from the other days she was on service at the Webb household as to enable her to distinctly
remember, four years later, what one of the Webb boys did and at what time. She could not
remember any of the details that happened in the household on the other days. She proved to have
a selective photographic memory and this only damaged her testimony.

Gaviola tried to corroborate Alfaro's testimony by claiming that on June 30, 1991 she
noticed bloodstains on Webb's t-shirt.[20] She did not call the attention of anybody in the
household about it when it would have been a point of concern that Webb may have been hurt,
hence the blood.

Besides, Victoria Ventoso, the Webbs' housemaid from March 1989 to May 1992, and Sgt.
Miguel Muoz, the Webbs' security aide in 1991, testified that Gaviola worked for the Webbs only
from January 1991 to April 1991. Ventoso further testified that it was not Gaviola's duty to collect
the clothes from the 2nd floor bedrooms, this being the work of the housemaid charged with
cleaning the rooms.

What is more, it was most unlikely for a laundrywoman who had been there for only four
months to collect, as she claimed, the laundry from the rooms of her employers and their grown
up children at four in the morning while they were asleep.

And it did not make sense, if Alfaros testimony were to be believed that Webb, who was
so careful and clever that he called Biong to go to the Vizconde residence at 2 a.m. to clean up
the evidence against him and his group, would bring his bloodied shirt home and put it in the
hamper for laundrywoman Gaviola to collect and wash at 4 a.m. as was her supposed habit.
Lolita De Birrer was accused Biongs girlfriend around the time the Vizconde massacre
took place. Birrer testified that she was with Biong playing mahjong from the evening of June
29, 1991 to the early morning of June 30, when Biong got a call at around 2 a.m. This prompted
him, according to De Birrer, to leave and go to BF. Someone sitting at the backseat of a taxi
picked him up. When Biong returned at 7 a.m. he washed off what looked like dried blood from
his fingernails. And he threw away a foul-smelling handkerchief. She also saw Biong take out a
knife with aluminum cover from his drawer and hid it in his steel cabinet. [21]

The security guard at Pitong Daan did not notice any police investigator flashing a badge
to get into the village although Biong supposedly came in at the unholy hour of two in the
morning. His departure before 7 a.m. also remained unnoticed by the subdivision guards. Besides,
if he had cleaned up the crime scene shortly after midnight, what was the point of his returning
there on the following morning to dispose of some of the evidence in the presence of other police
investigators and on-lookers? In fact, why would he steal valuable items from the Vizconde
residence on his return there hours later if he had the opportunity to do it earlier?
At most, Birrers testimony only established Biongs theft of certain items from the Vizconde
residence and gross neglect for failing to maintain the sanctity of the crime scene by moving
around and altering the effects of the crime. Birrers testimony failed to connect Biong's acts to
Webb and the other accused.

Lauro Vizconde testified about how deeply he was affected by the loss of her wife and
two daughters. Carmella spoke to him of a rejected suitor she called Bagyo, because he was a
Paraaque politicians son. Unfortunately, Lauro did not appear curious enough to insist on finding
out who the rejected fellow was. Besides, his testimony contradicts that of Alfaro who testified
that Carmela and Webb had an on-going relation. Indeed, if Alfaro were to be believed, Carmela
wanted Webb to come to her house around midnight. She even left the kitchen door open so he
could enter the house.

5. The missing corroboration

There is something truly remarkable about this case: the prosecutions core theory that
Carmela and Webb had been sweethearts, that she had been unfaithful to him, and that it was for
this reason that Webb brought his friends to her house to gang-rape her is totally uncorroborated!

For instance, normally, if Webb, a Congressmans son, courted the young Carmela, that
would be news among her circle of friends if not around town. But, here, none of her friends or
even those who knew either of them came forward to affirm this. And if Webb hanged around
with her, trying to win her favors, he would surely be seen with her. And this would all the more
be so if they had become sweethearts, a relation that Alfaro tried to project with her testimony.

But, except for Alfaro, the NBI asset, no one among Carmelas friends or her friends friends
would testify ever hearing of such relationship or ever seeing them together in some popular
hangouts in Paraaque or Makati. Alfaros claim of a five-hour drama is like an alien page, rudely
and unconnectedly inserted into Webb and Carmelas life stories or like a piece of jigsaw puzzle
trimmed to fit into the shape on the board but does not belong because it clashes with the
surrounding pieces. It has neither antecedent nor concomitant support in the verifiable facts of
their personal histories. It is quite unreal.

What is more, Alfaro testified that she saw Carmela drive out of her house with a male
passenger, Mr. X, whom Alfaro thought the way it looked was also Carmelas lover. This was the
all-important reason Webb supposedly had for wanting to harm her. Again, none of Carmelas
relatives, friends, or people who knew her ever testified about the existence of Mr.X in her
life. Nobody has come forward to testify having ever seen him with Carmela. And despite the
gruesome news about her death and how Mr. X had played a role in it, he never presented himself
like anyone who had lost a special friend normally would. Obviously, Mr. X did not exist, a mere
ghost of the imagination of Alfaro, the woman who made a living informing on criminals.

Webbs U.S. Alibi

Among the accused, Webb presented the strongest alibi.

a. The travel preparations

Webb claims that in 1991 his parents, Senator Freddie Webb and his wife, Elizabeth, sent
their son to the United States (U.S.) to learn the value of independence, hard work, and
money.[22] Gloria Webb, his aunt, accompanied him. Rajah Tours booked their flight to San
Francisco via United Airlines. Josefina Nolasco of Rajah Tours confirmed that Webb and his aunt
used their plane tickets.
Webb told his friends, including his neighbor, Jennifer Claire Cabrera, and his basketball
buddy, Joselito Orendain Escobar, of his travel plans.He even invited them to his despedida party
on March 8, 1991 at Faces Disco along Makati Ave.[23] On March 8,1991, the eve of his departure,
he took girlfriend Milagros Castillo to a dinner at Bunchums at the Makati Cinema Square. His
basketball buddy Rafael Jose with Tina Calma, a blind date arranged by Webb, joined them. They
afterwards went to Faces Disco for Webb's despedida party. Among those present were his
friends Paulo Santos and Jay Ortega.[24]

b. The two immigration checks

The following day, March 9, 1991, Webb left for San Francisco, California, with his Aunt
Gloria on board United Airlines Flight 808.[25]Before boarding his plane, Webb passed through
the Philippine Immigration booth at the airport to have his passport cleared and
stamped.Immigration Officer, Ferdinand Sampol checked Webbs visa, stamped, and initialed his
passport, and let him pass through.[26] He was listed on the United Airlines Flights Passenger
Manifest.[27]

On arrival at San Francisco, Webb went through the U.S. Immigration where his entry into
that country was recorded. Thus, the U.S. Immigration Naturalization Service, checking with its
Non-immigrant Information System, confirmed Webb's entry into the U.S. on March 9,
1991.Webb presented at the trial the INS Certification issued by the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service,[28] the computer-generated print-out of the US-INS indicating Webb's
entry on March 9, 1991,[29] and the US-INS Certification dated August 31, 1995, authenticated
by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, correcting an earlier August 10, 1995
Certification.[30]

c. Details of U.S. sojourn

In San Francisco, Webb and his aunt Gloria were met by the latters daughter, Maria Teresa
Keame, who brought them to Glorias house in Daly City, California. During his stay with his
aunt, Webb met Christopher Paul Legaspi Esguerra, Glorias grandson. In April 1991, Webb,
Christopher, and a certain Daphne Domingo watched the concert of Deelite Band in San
Francisco.[31] In the same month, Dorothy Wheelock and her family invited Webb to Lake Tahoe
to return the Webbs hospitality when she was in the Philippines.[32]

In May 1991, on invitation of another aunt, Susan Brottman, Webb moved to Anaheim
Hills, California.[33] During his stay there, he occupied himself with playing basketball once or
twice a week with Steven Keeler[34] and working at his cousin-in-laws pest control
company.[35] Webb presented the companys logbook showing the tasks he performed, [36] his
paycheck,[37] his ID, and other employment papers. On June 14, 1991 he applied for a driver's
license[38] and wrote three letters to his friend Jennifer Cabrera.[39]

On June 28, 1991, Webbs parents visited him at Anaheim and stayed with the
Brottmans. On the same day, his father introduced Honesto Aragon to his son when he came to
visit.[40] On the following day, June 29, Webb, in the company of his father and Aragon went
to Riverside,California, to look for a car. They bought an MR2 Toyota car.[41] Later that day, a
visitor at the Brottmans, Louis Whittacker, saw Webb looking at the plates of his new car. [42] To
prove the purchase, Webb presented the Public Records of California Department of Motor
Vehicle[43] and a car plate LEW WEBB.[44] In using the car in the U.S., Webb even received traffic
citations.[45]

On June 30, 1991 Webb, again accompanied by his father and Aragon,[46] bought a bicycle
at Orange Cycle Center.[47] The Center issued Webb a receipt dated June 30, 1991.[48] On July 4,
1991, Independence Day, the Webbs, the Brottmans, and the Vaca family had a lakeside picnic.[49]

Webb stayed with the Brottmans until mid July and rented a place for less than a month. On
August 4, 1991 he left for Longwood, Florida, to stay with the spouses Jack and Sonja
Rodriguez.[50] There, he met Armando Rodriguez with whom he spent time, playing basketball
on weekends, watching movies, and playing billiards.[51] In November 1991, Webb met
performing artist Gary Valenciano, a friend of Jack Rodriguez, who was invited for a dinner at
the Rodriguezs house.[52] He left the Rodriguezs home in August 1992, returned to Anaheim and
stayed with his aunt Imelda Pagaspas. He stayed there until he left for the Philippines on October
26, 1992.

d. The second immigration checks

As with his trip going to the U.S., Webb also went through both the U.S. and Philippine
immigrations on his return trip. Thus, his departure from the U.S. was confirmed by the same
certifications that confirmed his entry.[53] Furthermore, a Diplomatic Note of the U.S. Department
of State with enclosed letter from Acting Director Debora A. Farmer of the Records Operations,
Office of Records of the US-INS stated that the Certification dated August 31, 1995 is a true and
accurate statement. And when he boarded his plane, the Passenger Manifest of Philippine Airlines
Flight No. 103,[54] certified by Agnes Tabuena[55] confirmed his return trip.

When he arrived in Manila, Webb again went through the Philippine Immigration. In fact,
the arrival stamp and initial on his passport indicated his return to Manila on October 27,
1992. This was authenticated by Carmelita Alipio, the immigration officer who processed Webbs
reentry.[56]Upon his return, in October 1992, Paolo Santos, Joselito Erondain Escobar, and Rafael
Jose once again saw Webb playing basketball at the BF's Phase III basketball court.

e. Alibi versus positive identification

The trial court and the Court of Appeals are one in rejecting as weak Webbs alibi. Their
reason is uniform: Webbs alibi cannot stand against Alfaros positive identification of him as the
rapist and killer of Carmela and, apparently, the killer as well of her mother and younger
sister. Because of this, to the lower courts, Webbs denial and alibi were fabricated.

But not all denials and alibis should be regarded as fabricated. Indeed, if the accused is
truly innocent, he can have no other defense but denial and alibi. So how can such accused
penetrate a mind that has been made cynical by the rule drilled into his head that a defense of
alibi is a hangmans noose in the face of a witness positively swearing, I saw him do it.? Most
judges believe that such assertion automatically dooms an alibi which is so easy to fabricate. This
quick stereotype thinking, however, is distressing. For how else can the truth that the accused is
really innocent have any chance of prevailing over such a stone-cast tenet?

There is only one way. A judge must keep an open mind. He must guard against slipping
into hasty conclusion, often arising from a desire to quickly finish the job of deciding a case. A
positive declaration from a witness that he saw the accused commit the crime should not
automatically cancel out the accuseds claim that he did not do it. A lying witness can make as
positive an identification as a truthful witness can. The lying witness can also say as forthrightly
and unequivocally, He did it! without blinking an eye.

Rather, to be acceptable, the positive identification must meet at least two criteria:

First, the positive identification of the offender must come from a credible witness. She is
credible who can be trusted to tell the truth, usually based on past experiences with her. Her word
has, to one who knows her, its weight in gold.
And second, the witness story of what she personally saw must be believable, not
inherently contrived. A witness who testifies about something she never saw runs into
inconsistencies and makes bewildering claims.

Here, as already fully discussed above, Alfaro and her testimony fail to meet the above
criteria.

She did not show up at the NBI as a spontaneous witness bothered by her conscience. She
had been hanging around that agency for sometime as a stool pigeon, one paid for mixing up with
criminals and squealing on them. Police assets are often criminals themselves. She was the
prosecutions worst possible choice for a witness. Indeed, her superior testified that she
volunteered to play the role of a witness in the Vizconde killings when she could not produce a
man she promised to the NBI.

And, although her testimony included details, Alfaro had prior access to the details that the
investigators knew of the case. She took advantage of her familiarity with these details to include
in her testimony the clearly incompatible act of Webb hurling a stone at the front door glass
frames even when they were trying to slip away quietlyjust so she can accommodate this crime
scene feature. She also had Ventura rummaging a bag on the dining table for a front door key that
nobody needed just to explain the physical evidence of that bag and its scattered contents. And
she had Venturaclimbing the cars hood, risking being seen in such an awkward position, when
they did not need to darken the garage to force open the front doorjust so to explain the darkened
light and foot prints on the car hood.

Further, her testimony was inherently incredible. Her story that Gatchalian, Fernandez,
Estrada, Rodriguez, and Filart agreed to take their turns raping Carmela is incongruent with their
indifference, exemplified by remaining outside the house, milling under a street light, visible to
neighbors and passersby, and showing no interest in the developments inside the house, like if it
was their turn to rape Carmela. Alfaros story that she agreed to serve as Webbs messenger to
Carmela, using up her gas, and staying with him till the bizarre end when they were practically
strangers, also taxes incredulity.

To provide basis for Webbs outrage, Alfaro said that she followed Carmela to the main
road to watch her let off a lover on Aguirre Avenue.And, inexplicably, although Alfaro had only
played the role of messenger, she claimed leading Webb, Lejano, and Ventura into the house to
gang-rape Carmella, as if Alfaro was establishing a reason for later on testifying on personal
knowledge. Her swing from an emotion of fear when a woman woke up to their presence in the
house and of absolute courage when she nonetheless returned to become the lone witness to a
grim scene is also quite inexplicable.

Ultimately, Alfaros quality as a witness and her inconsistent, if not inherently unbelievable,
testimony cannot be the positive identification that jurisprudence acknowledges as sufficient to
jettison a denial and an alibi.

f. A documented alibi
To establish alibi, the accused must prove by positive, clear, and satisfactory
evidence[57] that (a) he was present at another place at the time of the perpetration of the crime,
and (b) that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime. [58]

The courts below held that, despite his evidence, Webb was actually in Paraaque when the
Vizconde killings took place; he was not in the U.S. from March 9, 1991 to October 27, 1992;
and if he did leave on March 9, 1991, he actually returned before June 29, 1991, committed the
crime, erased the fact of his return to the Philippines from the records of the U.S. and Philippine
Immigrations, smuggled himself out of the Philippines and into the U.S., and returned the normal
way on October 27, 1992. But this ruling practically makes the death of Webb and his passage
into the next life the only acceptable alibi in the Philippines. Courts must abandon this unjust and
inhuman paradigm.

If one is cynical about the Philippine system, he could probably claim that Webb, with his
fathers connections, can arrange for the local immigration to put a March 9, 1991 departure stamp
on his passport and an October 27, 1992 arrival stamp on the same. But this is pure speculation
since there had been no indication that such arrangement was made. Besides, how could Webb
fix a foreign airlines passenger manifest, officially filed in the Philippines and at the airport in
the U.S. that had his name on them? How could Webb fix with the U.S. Immigrations record
system those two dates in its record of his travels as well as the dates when he supposedly departed
in secret from the U.S. to commit the crime in the Philippinesand then return there? No one has
come up with a logical and plausible answer to these questions.

The Court of Appeals rejected the evidence of Webbs passport since he did not leave the
original to be attached to the record. But, while the best evidence of a document is the original,
this means that the same is exhibited in court for the adverse party to examine and for the judge
to see. As Court of Appeals Justice Tagle said in his dissent,[59] the practice when a party does
not want to leave an important document with the trial court is to have a photocopy of it marked
as exhibit and stipulated among the parties as a faithful reproduction of the original. Stipulations
in the course of trial are binding on the parties and on the court.

The U.S. Immigration certification and the computer print-out of Webbs arrival in and
departure from that country were authenticated by no less than the Office of the U.S. Attorney
General and the State Department. Still the Court of Appeals refused to accept these documents
for the reason that Webb failed to present in court the immigration official who prepared the
same. But this was unnecessary. Webbs passport is a document issued by the Philippine
government, which under international practice, is the official record of travels of the citizen to
whom it is issued. The entries in that passport are presumed true.[60]

The U.S. Immigration certification and computer print-out, the official certifications of
which have been authenticated by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, merely validated
the arrival and departure stamps of the U.S. Immigration office on Webbs passport. They have
the same evidentiary value. The officers who issued these certifications need not be presented in
court to testify on them. Their trustworthiness arises from the sense of official duty and the
penalty attached to a breached duty, in the routine and disinterested origin of such statement and
in the publicity of the record.[61]
The Court of Appeals of course makes capital of the fact that an earlier certification from
the U.S. Immigration office said that it had no record of Webb entering the U.S. But that
erroneous first certification was amply explained by the U.S. Government and Court of Appeals
Justice Tagle stated it in his dissenting opinion, thus:

While it is true that an earlier Certification was issued by the U.S. INS on
August 16, 1995 finding no evidence of lawful admission of Webb, this was already
clarified and deemed erroneous by no less than the US INS Officials. As explained
by witness Leo Herrera-Lim, Consul and Second Secretary of the Philippine
Embassy in Washington D.C., said Certification did not pass through proper
diplomatic channels and was obtained in violation of the rules on protocol and
standard procedure governing such request.

The initial request was merely initiated by BID Commissioner Verceles who
directly communicated with the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, USA,
bypassing the Secretary of Foreign Affairs which is the proper protocol
procedure. Mr. Steven Bucher, the acting Chief of the Records Services Board of
US-INS Washington D.C. in his letter addressed to Philip Antweiler, Philippine
Desk Officer, State Department, declared the earlier Certification as incorrect and
erroneous as it was not exhaustive and did not reflect all available
information. Also, Richard L. Huff, Co-Director of the Office of Information and
privacy, US Department of Justice, in response to the appeal raised by Consul
General Teresita V. Marzan, explained that the INS normally does not maintain
records on individuals who are entering the country as visitors rather than as
immigrants: and that a notation concerning the entry of a visitor may be made at
the Nonimmigrant Information system. Since appellant Webb entered the U.S. on
a mere tourist visa, obviously, the initial search could not have produced the
desired result inasmuch as the data base that was looked into contained entries of
the names of IMMIGRANTS and not that of NON-IMMIGRANT visitors of the
U.S..[62]

The trial court and the Court of Appeals expressed marked cynicism over the accuracy of
travel documents like the passport as well as the domestic and foreign records of departures and
arrivals from airports. They claim that it would not have been impossible for Webb to secretly
return to the Philippines after he supposedly left it on March 9, 1991, commit the crime, go back
to the U.S., and openly return to the Philippines again on October 26, 1992. Travel between
the U.S. and the Philippines, said the lower courts took only about twelve to fourteen hours.

If the Court were to subscribe to this extremely skeptical view, it might as well tear the
rules of evidence out of the law books and regard suspicions, surmises, or speculations as reasons
for impeaching evidence. It is not that official records, which carry the presumption of truth of
what they state, are immune to attack. They are not. That presumption can be overcome by
evidence. Here, however, the prosecution did not bother to present evidence to impeach the
entries in Webbs passport and the certifications of the Philippine and U.S. immigration services
regarding his travel to the U.S. and back. The prosecutions rebuttal evidence is the fear of the
unknown that it planted in the lower courts minds.

7. Effect of Webbs alibi to others


Webbs documented alibi altogether impeaches Alfaro's testimony, not only with respect to
him, but also with respect to Lejano, Estrada, Fernandez, Gatchalian, Rodriguez, and Biong. For,
if the Court accepts the proposition that Webb was in the U.S. when the crime took place, Alfaros
testimony will not hold together. Webbs participation is the anchor of Alfaros story. Without it,
the evidence against the others must necessarily fall.

CONCLUSION

In our criminal justice system, what is important is, not whether the court entertains doubts
about the innocence of the accused since an open mind is willing to explore all possibilities, but
whether it entertains a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt. For, it would be a serious
mistake to send an innocent man to jail where such kind of doubt hangs on to ones inner being,
like a piece of meat lodged immovable between teeth.
Will the Court send the accused to spend the rest of their lives in prison on the testimony
of an NBI asset who proposed to her handlers that she take the role of the witness to the Vizconde
massacre that she could not produce?

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated December
15, 2005 and Resolution dated January 26, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
00336 and ACQUITS accused-appellants Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A.
Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong of the
crimes of which they were charged for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention unless they are
confined for another lawful cause.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Director, Bureau of


Corrections, Muntinlupa City for immediate implementation. The Director of the Bureau of
Corrections is DIRECTED to report the action he has taken to this Court within five days from
receipt of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

SECTION 11. Suspension of Arraignment.

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 195956, March 11, 2015

ABS-CBN CORPORATION, Petitioner, v. FELIPE GOZON, GILBERTO R. DUAVIT,


JR., MARISSA L. FLORES, JESSICA A. SOHO, GRACE DELA PEA-REYES, JOHN
OLIVER T. MANALASTAS, JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES, Respondents.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

The main issue in this case is whether there is probable cause to charge respondents
with infringement under Republic Act No. 8293, otherwise known as the Intellectual
Property Code. The resolution of this issue requires clarification of the concept of
"copyrightable material" in relation to material that is rebroadcast live as a news story.
We are also asked to rule on whether criminal prosecution for infringement of
copyrightable material, such as live rebroadcast, can be negated by good faith.

ABS-CBN Corporation (ABS-CBN) filed the Petition for Review on Certiorari1 to assail the
November 9, 2010 Decision2 and the March 3, 2011 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals reinstated the Department of Justice Resolution dated August 1,
2005 that ordered the withdrawal of the Information finding probable cause for
respondents' violation of Sections 1774 and 2115 of the Intellectual Property
Code.6 Respondents are officers and employees of GMA Network, Inc. (GMA-7). They
are: Felipe Gozon (Gozon), GMA-7 President; Gilberto R. Duavit, Jr. (Duavit, Jr.),
Executive Vice-President; Marissa L. Flores (Flores), Vice-President for News and Public
Affairs; Jessica A. Soho (Soho), Director for News; Grace Dla Pea-Reyes (Dela Pea-
Reyes), Head of News and Public Affairs; John Oliver Manalastas '(Manalastas), Program
Manager; and others.

The controversy arose from GMA-7's news coverage on the homecoming of Filipino
overseas worker and hostage victim Angelo dela Cruz on July 22, 2004. As summarized
by the Court of Appeals:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Overseas Filipino worker Angelo dela Cruz was kidnapped by Iraqi militants and as a
condition for his release, a demand was made for the withdrawal of Filipino troops in
Iraq. After negotiations, he was released by his captors and was scheduled to return to
the country in the afternoon of 22 July 2004. Occasioned by said homecoming and the
public interest it generated, both . . . GMA Network, Inc. . . . and [petitioner] made their
respective broadcasts and coverage of the live event.7
ABS-CBN "conducted live audio-video coverage of and broadcasted the arrival of Angelo
dela Cruz at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the subsequent press
conference."8 ABS-CBN allowed Reuters Television Service (Reuters) to air the footages
it had taken earlier under a special embargo agreement.9

ABS-CBN alleged that under the special embargo agreement, any of the footages it took
would be for the "use of Renter's international subscribers only, and shall be considered
and treated by Reuters under 'embargo' against use by other subscribers in the
Philippines. . . . [N]o other Philippine subscriber of Reuters would be allowed to use ABS-
CBN footage without the latter's consent."10

GMA-7, to which Gozon, Duavit, Jr., Flores, Soho, Dela Pea-Reyes, and Manalastas are
connected, "assigned and stationed news reporters and technical men at the NAIA for its
live broadcast and non-live news coverage of the arrival of dela Cruz."11 GMA-7
subscribes to both Reuters and Cable News Network (CNN). It received a live video feed
of the coverage of Angelo dela Cruz's arrival from Reuters.12

GMA-7 immediately carried the live newsfeed in its program "Flash Report," together
with its live broadcast.13 Allegedly, GMA-7 did not receive any notice or was not aware
that Reuters was airing footages of ABS-CBN.14 GMA-7's news control room staff saw
neither the "No Access Philippines" notice nor a notice that the video feed was under
embargo in favor of ABS-CBN.15

On August 13, 2004, ABS-CBN filed the Complaint for copyright infringement under
Sections 17716 and 21117 of the Intellectual Property Code.18

On December 3, 2004, Assistant City Prosecutor Dindo Venturanza issued the


Resolution19 finding probable cause to indict Dela Pea-Reyes and
Manalastas.20 Consequently, the Information21 for violation of the Intellectual Property
Code was filed on December 17, 2004. It reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
That on or about the 22nd of July 2004, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named
accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, being
the Head of News Operations and the Program Manager, respectively, for the News and
Public Affairs Department of GMA Network, Inc., did then and there, willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously use and broadcast the footage of the arrival of Angelo [d]ela Cruz at the
Ninoy Aquino International Airport of which ABS-CBN holds the exclusive ownership and
copyright by then and there using, airing, and broadcasting the said footage in its news
program "FLASH REPORT" without first obtaining the consent or authority of said
copyright owner, to their damage and prejudice.

Contrary to law.22
On January 4, 2005, respondents filed the Petition for Review before the Department of
Justice.23 In the Resolution (Gonzalez Resolution) dated August 1, 2005, Department of
Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez (Secretary Gonzalez) ruled in favor of respondents
and held that good faith may be raised as a defense in the case.24 The dispositive
portion of the Resolution reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, THE PETITION FOR REVIEW FILED BY GMA-7 in I.S. No. 04-10458 is
considered meritorious and is hereby GRANTED. This case is hereby Dismissed, the
resolution of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City is hereby reversed and the same is
ordered to withdraw the information if any and report action taken to this office within
ten (10) days.25 (Emphasis in the original)
Both parties moved for reconsideration of the Gonzalez Resolution.26

Meanwhile, on January 19, 2005, the trial court granted the Motion to Suspend
Proceedings filed earlier by Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas.27 The trial court Order
reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Perusing the motion, the court finds that a petition for review was filed with the
Department of Justice on January 5, 2005 as confirmed by the public prosecutor. Under
Section 11 (c), Rule 116 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, once a petition for review is
filed with the Department of Justice, a suspension of the criminal proceedings may be
allowed by the court.

Accordingly, to allow the Department of Justice the opportunity to act on said petition for
review, let the proceedings on this case be suspended for a period of sixty (60) days
counted from January 5, 2005, the date the petition was filed with the Department of
Justice. The arraignment of the accused on February 1, 2005 is accordingly cancelled.
Let the arraignment be rescheduled to March 8, 2005 at 8:30 a.m. The accused through
counsel are notified in open court.

SO ORDERED.28
On June 29, 2010, Department of Justice Acting Secretary Alberto C. Agra (Secretary
Agra) issued the Resolution (Agra Resolution) that reversed the Gonzalez Resolution and
found probable cause to charge Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas for violation of the
Intellectual Property Code.29 Secretary Agra also found probable cause to indict Gozon,
Duavit, Jr., Flores, and Soho for the same violation.30 He ruled
that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
[w]hile good faith may be a defense in copyright infringement, the same is a disputable
presumption that must be proven in a full-blown trial. Disputable presumptions may be
contradicted and overcome by other evidence. Thus, a full-blown trial is the proper
venue where facts, issues and laws are evaluated and considered. The very purpose of
trial is to allow a party to present evidence to overcome the disputable presumptions
involved.31
The dispositive portion of the Agra Resolution provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered:

(a) The Motion for Reconsideration filed by appellees ABS-CBN Broadcasting


Corporation (ABS-CBN) of our Resolution promulgated on August 1, 2005 (Resolution
No. 364, Series of 2005) and the Petition for Review filed by complainant-appellant
ABS-CBN in I.S. No. 04-10458 on April 10, 2006, are GRANTED and the City Prosecutor
of Quezon City is hereby ordered to file the necessary Information for violation of
Section 177 and 211 of Republic Act No. 8293 against GMA-7. Felipe L. Gozon, Gilberto
R. Duavit, Jr., Marissa L. Flores, Jessica A. Soho, Grace Dela Pena-Reyes, John Oliver T.
Manalastas[.]

SO ORDERED.32 (Emphasis in the original)


Respondents assailed the Agra Resolution through the Petition for Certiorari with prayer
for issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction on
September 2, 2010 before the Court of Appeals. In the Resolution dated September 13,
2010, the Court of Appeals granted the temporary restraining order preventing the
Department of Justice from enforcing the Agra Resolution.33

On November 9, 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered the Decision granting the Petition
and reversing and setting aside the Agra Resolution.34 The Court of Appeals held that
Secretary Agra committed errors of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed
Resolution. Resolving the issue of copyright infringement, the Court of Appeals
said:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Surely, private respondent has a copyright of its news coverage. Seemingly, for airing
said video feed, petitioner GMA is liable under the provisions of the Intellectual Property
Code, which was enacted purposely to protect copyright owners from
infringement. However, it is an admitted fact that petitioner GMA had only aired a five
(5) second footage of the disputed live video feed that it had received from Reuters and
CNN as a subscriber. Indeed, petitioners had no notice of the right of ownership of
private respondent over the same. Without notice of the "No Access Philippines"
restriction of the live video feed, petitioner cannot he faulted for airing a live video feed
from Reuters and CNN.

Verily, as aptly opined by Secretary Gonzalez in his earlier Resolution, the act of
petitioners in airing the five (5) second footage was undeniably attended by good faith
and it thus serves to exculpate them from criminal liability under the Code. While the
Intellectual Properly Code is a special law, and thus generally categorized as malum
prohibitum, it bears to stress that the provisions of the Code itself do not ipso facto
penalize a person or entity for copyright infringement by the mere fact that one had
used a copyrighted work or material.

Certainly so, in the exercise of one's moral and economic or copyrights, the very
provisions of Part IV of the Intellectual Property Code provide for the scope and
limitations on copyright protection under Section 184 and in fact permit fair use of
copyrighted work under Section 185. With the aforesaid statutory limitations on one's
economic and copyrights and the allowable instances where the other persons can
legally use a copyrighted work, criminal culpability clearly attaches only when the
infringement had been knowingly and intentionally committed.35 (Emphasis supplied)
The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED and
the assailed Resolution dated 29 June 2010 REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly,
the earlier Resolution dated 1 August 2005, which ordered the withdrawal of the
Information filed, if any, against the petitioners for violation of Sections 177 and 211 of
the Intellectual Property Code, is hereby REINSTATED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.36 (Emphasis in the original)


ABS-CBN's Motion for Reconsideration was denied.37 It then filed its Petition for Review
before this court assailing the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals.38

The issues for this court's consideration are:

First, whether Secretary Agra committed errors of jurisdiction in the Resolution dated
June 29, 2010 and, therefore, whether a petition for certiorari was the proper remedy in
assailing that Resolution;

Second, whether news footage is copyrightable under the law;


Third, whether there was fair use of the broadcast material;

Fourth, whether lack of knowledge that a material is copyrighted is a defense against


copyright infringement;

Fifth, whether good faith is a defense in a criminal prosecution for violation of the
Intellectual Property Code; and

Lastly, whether the Court of Appeals was correct in overturning Secretary Agra's finding
of probable cause.cralawlawlibrary

The trial court granted respondents' Motion to Suspend Proceedings and deferred
respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas' arraignment for 60 days in view of the
Petition for Review filed before the Department of Justice.

Rule 116, Section 11 (c) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure allows the suspension of the
accused's arraignment in certain circumstances only:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SEC. 11. Suspension of arraignment.-Upon motion by the proper party, the arraignment
shall be suspended in the following cases:

(a) The accused appears to be suffering from an unsound mental condition which
effectively renders him unable to fully understand the charge against him and to plead
intelligently thereto. In such case, the court shall order his mental examination and, if
necessary, his confinement for such purpose;

(b) There exists a prejudicial question; and

(c) A petition for review of the resolution of the prosecutor is pending at either the
Department of Justice, or the Office of the President; provided, that the period of
suspension shall not exceed sixty (60) days counted from the filing of the petition with
the reviewing office. (12a) (Emphasis supplied)
In Samson v. Daway,39 this court acknowledged the applicability of Rule 116, Section (c)
in a criminal prosecution for infringement under the Intellectual Property Code.
However, this court emphasized the limits of the order of deferment under the Rule:

While the pendency of a petition for review is a ground for suspension of the
arraignment, the . . . provision limits the deferment of the arraignment to a period of 60
days reckoned from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office. It follows,
therefore, that after the expiration of said period, the trial court is bound to arraign the
accused or to deny the motion to defer arraignment.40

We clarify that the suspension of the arraignment should always be within the limits
allowed by law. In Crespo v. Judge Mogul,41 this court outlined the effects of filing an
information before the trial court, which includes initiating a criminal action and giving
this court "authority to hear and determine the case":42ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The preliminary investigation conducted by the fiscal for the purpose of determining
whether a prima facie case exists warranting the prosecution of the accused is
terminated upon the filing of the information in the proper court. In turn, as above
stated, the filing of said information sets in motion the criminal action against the
accused in Court. Should the fiscal find it proper to conduct a reinvestigation of the case,
at such stage, the permission of the Court must be secured. After such reinvestigation
the finding and recommendations of the fiscal should be submitted to the Court for
appropriate action. While it is true that the fiscal has the quasi judicial discretion to
determine whether or not a criminal case should be filed in court or not, once the case
had already been brought to Court whatever disposition the fiscal may feel should be
proper in the case thereafter should be addressed for the consideration of the Court, the
only qualification is that the action of the Court must not impair the substantial rights of
the accused or the right of the People to due process of law.

Whether the accused had been arraigned or not and whether it was due to a
reinvestigation by the fiscal or a review by the Secretary of Justice whereby a motion to
dismiss was submitted to the Court, the Court in the exercise of its discretion may grant
the motion or deny it and require that the trial on the merits proceed for the proper
determination of the case.

However, one may ask, if the trial court refuses to grant the motion to dismiss filed by
the fiscal upon the directive of the Secretary of Justice will there not be a vacuum in the
prosecution? A state prosecutor to handle the case cannot possibly be designated by the
Secretary of Justice who does not believe that there is a basis for prosecution nor can
the fiscal be expected to handle the prosecution of the case thereby defying the superior
order of the Secretary of Justice.

The answer is simple. The role of the fiscal or prosecutor as We all know is to see that
justice is done and not necessarily to secure the conviction of the person accused before
the Courts. Thus, in spite of his opinion to the contrary, it is the duty of the fiscal to
proceed with the presentation of evidence of the prosecution to the Court to enable the
Court to arrive at its own independent judgment as to whether the accused should be
convicted or acquitted. The fiscal should not shirk from the responsibility of appearing
for the People of the Philippines even under such circumstances much less should he
abandon the prosecution of the case leaving it to the hands of a private prosecutor for
then the entire proceedings will be null and void. The least that the fiscal should do is to
continue to appear for the prosecution although he may turn over the presentation of
the evidence to the private prosecutor but still under his direction and control.

The rule therefore in this jurisdiction is that once a complaint or information is filed in
Court any disposition of the case as to its dismissal or the conviction or acquittal of the
accused rests in the sound discretion of the Court. Although the fiscal retains the
direction and control of the prosecution of criminal cases even while the case is already
in Court he cannot impose his opinion on the trial court. The Court is the best and sole
judge on what to do with the case before it. The determination of the case is within its
exclusive jurisdiction and competence. A motion to dismiss the case filed by the fiscal
should be addressed to the Court who has the option to grant or deny the same. It does
not matter if this is done before or after the arraignment of the accused or that the
motion was filed after a reinvestigation or upon instructions of the Secretary of Justice
who reviewed the records of the investigation.43 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
The doctrine in Crespo was reiterated in Mayor Balindong v. Court of Appeals,44 where
this court reminded the Department of Justice Secretary to refrain from entertaining
petitions for review when the case is already pending with this
court:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
[I]n order to avoid a situation where the opinion of the Secretary of Justice who
reviewed the action of the fiscal may be disregarded by the trial court, the Secretary of
Justice should, as far as practicable, refrain from entertaining a petition for review or
appeal from the action of the fiscal, when the complaint or information has already been
filed in the Court. The matter should be left entirely for the determination of the Court.45
The trial court should have proceeded with respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and
Manalastas' arraignment after the 60-day period from the filing of the Petition for
Review before the Department of Justice on March 8, 2005. It was only on September
13, 2010 that the temporary restraining order was issued by the Court of Appeals. The
trial court erred when it did not act on the criminal case during the interim period. It had
full control and direction of the case. As Judge Mogul reasoned in denying the motion to
dismiss in Crespo, failure to proceed with the arraignment "disregards the requirements
of due process [and] erodes the Court's independence and integrity."46

II
According to ABS-CBN, the Court of Appeals erred in finding that: a motion for
reconsideration was not necessary before a petition for certiorari could be filed; the
Department of Justice Secretary committed errors of jurisdiction since the Agra
Resolution was issued within its authority and in accordance with settled laws and
jurisprudence; and respondents were not liable for copyright infringement.

In its assailed Decision, the Court of Appeals found that respondents committed a
procedural error when they failed to file a motion for reconsideration before filing the
Petition for Certiorari. However, the Court of Appeals held that a motion for
reconsideration was unnecessary since the Agra Resolution was a patent nullity and it
would have been useless under the circumstances:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Given that a reading of the assailed Resolution and the instant records readily reveals
errors -of jurisdiction on the part of respondent Secretary, direct judicial recourse is
warranted under the circumstances. Aside from the fact that said Resolution is a patent
nullity having been issued in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction, the filing of a motion for reconsideration is evidently useless on account of
the fact that the issues and arguments before this Court have already been duly raised
and accordingly delved into by respondent Secretary in his disposition of the petition a
quo.47 (Emphasis in the original)
In Elma v. Jacobi,48 this court ruled that a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the
Rules of Court is proper when assailing adverse resolutions of the Department of Justice
stemming from the determination of probable cause.49 However, grave abuse of
discretion must be alleged.50

In Sanrio Company Limited v. Lim,51 this court stressed the prosecutor's role in
determining probable cause. Judicial review will only lie when it is shown that the
prosecutor acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
A prosecutor alone determines the sufficiency of evidence that will establish probable
cause justifying the filing of a criminal information against the respondent. By way of
exception, however, judicial review is allowed where respondent has clearly established
that the prosecutor committed grave abuse of discretion. Otherwise stated, such review
is appropriate only when the prosecutor has exercised his discretion in an arbitrary,
capricious, whimsical or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility,
patent and gross enough to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or virtual refusal to
perform a duty enjoined by law.52 (Citations omitted)
Grave abuse of discretion refers to:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of
jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is exercised in an
arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility and 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 by or to act at all in contemplation of law.53
Resorting to certiorari requires that there be there be "no appeal, or any plain, speedy,
and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law[,]"54 such as a motion for
reconsideration. Generally, "a motion for reconsideration is a condition sine qua
non before a petition for certiorari may lie, its purpose being to grant an opportunity for
the [tribunal or officer] to correct any error attributed to it by a re-examination of the
legal and factual circumstances of the case."55

However, exceptions to the rule exist:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


(a) where the order is a patent nullity, as where the Court a quo had no jurisdiction; (b)
where the questions raised in the certiorari proceeding have been duly raised and
passed upon by the lower court, or are the same as those raised and passed upon in the
lower court; (c) where there is an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question and
any further delay would prejudice the interests of the Government or of the petitioner or
the subject matter of the action is perishable; (d) where, under the circumstances, a
motion for reconsideration would be useless; (e) where petitioner was deprived of due
process and there is extreme urgency for relief; (f) where, in a criminal case, relief from
an order of arrest is urgent and the granting of such relief by the trial Court is
improbable; (g) where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due
process; (h) where the proceedings was ex parte or in which the petitioner had no
opportunity to object; and (i) where the issue raised is one purely of law or where public
interest is involved.56(Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)
As argued by respondents, "[a] second motion for reconsideration would have been
useless and futile since the Department] [of] J[ustice] had already passed upon the
same issues twice."57 Equally pressing under the circumstances was the need to resolve
the matter, as the Information's filing would lead to respondents' imminent arrest.58

Moreover, Department of Justice Department Circular No. 70 dated July 3, 2000, or the
2000 NPS Rules on Appeal, provides that no second motion for reconsideration of the
Department of Justice Secretary's resolution shall be
entertained:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SECTION 13. Motion for reconsideration. The aggrieved party may file a motion for
reconsideration within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt of the
resolution on appeal, furnishing the adverse party and the Prosecution Office concerned
with copies thereof and submitting proof of such service. No second or further motion for
reconsideration shall be entertained.
The Agra Resolution was the result of respondents' Motion for Reconsideration assailing
the Gonzalez Resolution. To file a motion for reconsideration of the Agra Resolution
would be superfluous. Respondents were, therefore, correct in filing the Petition for
Certiorari of the Agra Resolution before the Court of Appeals.cralawlawlibrary

III

The Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary Agra committed errors of jurisdiction, which
then required the grant of the writ of certiorari:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
So viewed, by ordering the filing of information without proof that probable cause exists
to charge petitioners with a crime, respondent Secretary clearly committed an error of
jurisdiction thus warranting the issuance of the writ of certiorari. Surely, probable cause
cannot be had when the very provisions of the statute exculpates criminal liability in
cases classified as fair use of copyrighted materials. The fact that they admittedly used
the Reuters live video feed is not, as a matter of course, tantamount to copyright
infringement that would justify the filing of an information against the petitioners.59
Error of jurisdiction must be distinguished from error of judgment:

A line must be drawn between errors of judgment and errors of jurisdiction. An error of
judgment is one which the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction. An error
of jurisdiction renders an order or judgment void or voidable. Errors of jurisdiction are
reviewable on certiorari; errors of judgment, only by appeal.60

In People v. Hon. Sandiganbayan61:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


An error of judgment is one which the court may commit in the exercise of its
jurisdiction. An error of jurisdiction is one where the act complained of was issued by the
court without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion, which is
tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction and which error is correctible only by the
extraordinary writ of certiorari. Certiorari will not be issued to cure errors of the trial
court in its appreciation of the evidence of the parties, or its conclusions anchored on the
said findings and its conclusions of law.62 (Emphasis supplied)
This court has adopted a deferential attitude towards review of the executive's finding of
probable cause.63 This is based "not only upon the respect for the investigatory and
[prosecutorial] powers granted by the Constitution to the executive department but
upon practicality as well."64 Review of the Department of Justice Secretary's decision or
resolution will be allowed only when grave abuse of discretion is
alleged:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The full discretionary authority to determine probable cause in a preliminary
investigation to ascertain sufficient ground for the filing of information rests with the
executive branch.Hence, judicial review of the resolution of the Secretary of Justice is
limited to a determination whether there has been a grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Courts cannot substitute the executive
branch's judgment.

. . . .

It is only where the decision of the Justice Secretary is tainted with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction that the Court of Appeals may take
cognizance of the case in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of
Civil Procedure. The Court of Appeals decision may then be appealed to this Court by
way of a petition for review on certiorari.65 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
In this case, it must be shown that Secretary Agra exceeded his authority when he
reversed the findings of Secretary Gonzalez. This court must determine whether there is
probable cause to file an information for copyright infringement under the Intellectual
Property Code.cralawlawlibrary

IV

Probable cause pertains to "such facts as are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief
that a crime has been committed and that respondent is probably guilty
thereof." 66 Preliminary investigation is the inquiry or proceeding to determine whether
there is probable cause.67

In Webb v. De Leon,68 this court ruled that determination of probable cause during
preliminary investigation does not require trial-like evaluation of evidence since
existence of probable cause does not equate to guilt:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It ought to be emphasized that in determining probable cause, the average man weighs
facts and circumstances without resorting to the calibrations of our technical rules of
evidence of which his knowledge is nil. Rather, he relies on the calculus of common
sense of which all reasonable men have an abundance.

. . . .

. . . A finding of probable cause merely binds over the suspect to stand trial. It is not a
pronouncement of guilt.69
In Reyes v. Pearlbank Securities, Inc.,70 finding probable cause is not equivalent to
finding with moral certainty that the accused committed the crime:

A finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than
not a crime has been committed by the suspects. It need not be based on clear and
convincing evidence of guilt, not on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt,
and definitely not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt. In determining
probable cause, the average man weighs facts and circumstances without resorting to
the calibrations of the rules of evidence of which he has no technical knowledge. He
relies on common sense.71

During preliminary investigation, a public prosecutor does not adjudicate on the parties'
rights, obligations, or liabilities.72

In the recent case of Estrada v. Office of the Ombudsman, et al,73 we


reiterated Webb on the determination of probable cause during preliminary investigation
and traced the history of probable cause as borrowed from American
jurisprudence:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The purpose in determining probable cause is to make sure that the courts are not
clogged with weak cases that will only be dismissed, as well as to spare a person from
the travails of a needless prosecution.

. . . .
. . . In the United States, from where we borrowed the concept of probable cause, the
prevailing definition of probable cause is this:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In dealing with probable cause, however, as the very name implies, we deal with
probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of
everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. The
standard of proof is accordingly correlative to what must be proved.

"The substance of all the definitions" of probable cause "is a reasonable ground for belief
of guilt." McCarthy v. De Armit, 99 Pa. St. 63, 69, quoted with approval in the Carroll
opinion. 267 U. S. at 161. And this "means less than evidence which would justify
condemnation" or conviction, as Marshall, C. J., said for the Court more than a century
ago in Locke v. United States, 7 Cranch 339, 348. Since Marshall's time, at any rate, it
has come to mean more than bare suspicion: Probable cause exists where "the facts and
circumstances within their [the officers'] knowledge and of which they had reasonably
trustworthy information [are] sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable
caution in the belief that" an offense has been or is being committed. Carroll v. United
States, 267 U. S. 132, 162.

These long-prevailing standards seek to safeguard citizens from rash and unreasonable
interferences with privacy and from unfounded charges of crime. They also seek to give
fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community's protection. Because many situations
which confront officers in the course of executing their duties are more or less
ambiguous, room must be allowed for some mistakes on their part. But the mistakes
must be those of reasonable men, acting on facts leading sensibly to their conclusions of
probability. The rule of probable cause is a practical, nontechnical conception affording
the best compromise that has been found for accommodating these often opposing
interests. Requiring more would unduly hamper law enforcement. To allow less would be
to leave law-abiding citizens at the mercy of the officers' whim or caprice.
In the Philippines, there are four instances in the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
where probable cause is needed to be established:

(1) In Sections 1 and 3 of Rule 112: By the investigating officer, to determine


whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a
crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and
should be held for trial. A preliminary investigation is required before the filing
of a complaint or information for an offense where the penalty prescribed by
law is at least four years, two months and one day without regard to the fine;

(2) In Sections 6 and 9 of Rule 112: By the judge, to determine whether a warrant
of arrest or a commitment order, if the accused has already been arrested,
shall be issued and that there is a necessity of placing the respondent under
immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice;

(3) In Section 5(b) of Rule 113: By a peace officer or a private person making a
warrantless arrest when an offense has just been committed, and he has
probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or
circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(4) In Section 4 of Rule 126: By the judge, to determine whether a search warrant
shall be issued, and only upon probable cause in connection with one specific
offense to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath
or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and
particularly describing the place to be searched and the things to be seized
which may be anywhere in the
Philippines.
In all these instances, the evidence necessary to establish probable cause is based only
on the likelihood, or probability, of guilt.74
Estrada also highlighted that a "[preliminary investigation is not part of the criminal
action. It is merely preparatory and may even be disposed of in certain situations."75

To determine whether there is probable cause that respondents committed copyright


infringement, a review of the elements of the crime, including the existing facts, is
required.cralawlawlibrary

ABS-CBN claims that news footage is subject to copyright and prohibited use of
copyrighted material is punishable under the Intellectual Property Code. It argues that
the new footage is not a "newsworthy event" but "merely an account of the arrival of
Angelo dela Cruz in the Philippines the latter being the newsworthy
event":76ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
To be clear, it is the event itself or the arrival of Angelo dela Cruz which is not
copyrightable because that is the newsworthy event. However, any footage created from
the event itself, in this case the arrival of Angelo dela Cruz, are intellectual creations
which are copyrightable. Thus, the footage created by ABS-CBN during the arrival of
Angelo dela Cruz, which includes the statements of Dindo Amparo, are copyrightable and
protected by the laws on copyright.77
On the other hand, respondents argue that ABS-CBN's news footage of Angelo dela
Cruz's arrival is not copyrightable or subject to protection:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Certainly, the arrival of Angelo [d]ela Cruz, which aroused public attention and the
consciousness of the Filipino people with regard to their countrymen, OFWs working in
foreign countries and how the Philippine government responds to the issues concerning
them, is "news". There is no ingenuity or inventiveness added in the said news
footage. The video footage of this "news" is not copyrightable by any legal standard as
facts of everyday life depicted in the news and items of press information is part of the
public domain.78 (Emphasis in the original)
The news footage is copyrightable.

The Intellectual Property Code is clear about the rights afforded to authors of various
kinds of work. Under the Code, "works are protected by the sole fact of their
creation, irrespective of their mode or form of expression, as well as of their content,
quality and purpose."79 These include "[audio-visual works and cinematographic works
and works produced by a process analogous to cinematography or any process for
making audiovisual recordings."80

Contrary to the old copyright law,81 the Intellectual Property Code does not require
registration of the work to fully recover in an infringement suit. Nevertheless, both
copyright laws provide that copyright for a work is acquired by an intellectual creator
from the moment of creation.82

It is true that under Section 175 of the Intellectual Property Code, "news of the day and
other miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information" are
considered unprotected subject matter.83 However, the Code does not state
that expression of the news of the day, particularly when it underwent a creative
process, is not entitled to protection.

An idea or event must be distinguished from the expression of that idea or event. An
idea has been likened to a ghost in that it "must be spoken to a little before it will
explain itself."84 It is a concept that has eluded exact legal definition.85 To get a better
grasp of the idea/expression dichotomy, the etymology of the term "idea" is
traced:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The word "idea" is derived from a Greek term, meaning "a form, the look or appearance
of a thing as opposed to its reality, from idein, to see." In the Timaeus, Plato saw ideas
as eternal paradigms, independent objects to which the divine demiurge looks as
patterns in forming the world. This was later modified to the religious conception of
ideas as the thoughts of God. "It is not a very long step to extend the term 'idea' to
cover patterns, blueprints, or plans in anyone's mind, not only in God's." The word
entered the French and English vernacular in the 1600s and possessed two meanings.
The first was the Platonic meaning of a perfect exemplar or paradigm. The second,
which probably has its origin with Descartes, is of a mental concept or image or, more
broadly, any object of the mind when it is active. Objects of thought may exist
independently. The sun exists (probably) before and after you think of it. But it is also
possible to think of things that have never existed, such as a unicorn or Pegasus. John
Locke defined ideas very comprehensively, to include: all objects of the mind. Language
was a way of translating the invisible, hidden ideas that make up a person's thoughts
into the external, perceptible world of articulate sounds and visible written symbols that
others can understand.86(Citations omitted)
There is no one legal definition of "idea" in this jurisdiction. The term "idea" is mentioned
only once in the Intellectual Property Code.87 In Joaquin, Jr. v. Drilon,88 a television
format (i.e., a dating show format) is not copyrightable under Section 2 of Presidential
Decree No. 49;89 it is a mere concept:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
P.D. No. 49, 2, in enumerating what are subject to copyright, refers to finished works
and not to concepts. The copyright does not extend to an idea, procedure, process,
system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in
which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. Thus, the new
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES
provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SEC. 175. Unprotected Subject Matter.Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 172
and 173, no protection shall extend, under this law, to any idea, procedure, system,
method or operation, concept, principle, discovery or mere data as such, even if they
are expressed, explained, illustrated or embodied in a work; news of the day and other
miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information; or any
official text of a legislative, administrative or legal nature, as well as any official
translation thereof.
What then is the subject matter of petitioners' copyright? This Court is of the opinion
that petitioner BJPFs copyright covers audio-visual recordings of each episode of Rhoda
and Me, as falling within the class of works mentioned in P.D. 49, 2(M), to
wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Cinematographic works and works produced by a process analogous to cinematography
or any process for making audio-visual recordings;
The copyright does not extend to the general concept or format of its dating game
show.Accordingly, by the very nature of the subject of petitioner BJPI's copyright, the
investigating prosecutor should have the opportunity to compare the videotapes of the
two shows.

Mere description by words of the general format of the two dating game shows is
insufficient; the presentation of the master videotape in evidence was indispensable to
the determination of the existence of probable cause. As aptly observed by respondent
Secretary of Justice:

A television show includes more than mere words can describe because it involves a
whole spectrum of visuals and effects, video and audio, such that no similarity or
dissimilarity may be found by merely describing the general copyright/format of both
dating game shows90 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
Ideas can be either abstract or concrete.91 It is the concrete ideas that are generally
referred to as expression:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The words "abstract" and "concrete" arise in many cases dealing
with the idea/expression distinction. The Nichols court, for example, found that the
defendant's film did not infringe the plaintiffs play because it was "too generalized an
abstraction from what plaintiff wrote . . . only a part of her ideas." In Eichel v.
Marcin, the court said that authors may exploit facts, experiences, field of thought, and
general ideas found in another's work, "provided they do not substantially copy a
concrete form, in which the circumstances and ideas have been developed, arranged,
and put into shape." Judge Hand, in National Comics Publications, Inc. v. Fawcett
Publications, Inc. said that "no one infringes, unless he descends so far into what is
concrete as to invade. . . 'expression.'"

These cases seem to be distinguishing "abstract" ideas from "concrete" tangible


embodiments of these abstractions that may be termed expression. However, if the
concrete form of a work means more than the literal expression contained within it, it is
difficult to determine what is meant by "concrete." Webster's New Twentieth Century
Dictionary of the English Language provides several meanings for the word concrete.
These include: "having a material, perceptible existence; of, belonging to, or
characterized by things or events that can be perceived by the senses; real; actual;" and
"referring to a particular; specific, not general or abstract."92
In Pearl & Dean (Phil.), Incorporated v. Shoemart, Incorporated,93 this court, citing the
American case of Baker v. Selden, distinguished copyright from patents and illustrated
how an idea or concept is different from the expression of that
idea:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In the oft-cited case of Baker vs. Selden, the United States Supreme Court held
that only the expression of an idea is protected by copyright, not the idea itself. In that
case, the plaintiff held the copyright of a book which expounded on a new accounting
system he had developed. The publication illustrated blank forms of ledgers utilized in
such a system. The defendant reproduced forms similar to those illustrated in the
plaintiffs copyrighted book. The US Supreme Court ruled that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"There is no doubt that a work on the subject of book-keeping, though only explanatory
of well known systems, may be the subject of a copyright; but, then, it is claimed only
as a book, x x x But there is a clear distinction between the books, as such, and the art,
which it is, intended to illustrate. The mere statement of the proposition is so evident
that it requires hardly any argument to support ii. The same distinction may be
predicated of every other art as well as that of bookkeeping.

A treatise on the composition and use of medicines, be they old or new; on the
construction and use of ploughs or watches or churns; or on the mixture and application
of colors for painting or dyeing; or on the mode of drawing lines to produce the effect of
perspective, would be the subject of copyright; but no one would contend that the
copyright of the treatise would give the exclusive right to the art or manufacture
described therein. The copyright of the book, if not pirated from other works, would be
valid without regard to the novelty or want of novelty of its subject matter. The novelty
of the art or thing described or explained has nothing to do with the validity of the
copyright. To give to the author of the book an exclusive property in the art described
therein, when no examination of its novelty has ever been officially made, would be a
surprise and a fraud upon the public. That is the province of letters patent, not of
copyright. The claim to an invention of discovery of an art or manufacture must be
subjected to the examination of the Patent Office before an exclusive right therein can
be obtained; and a patent from the government can only secure it.

The difference between the two things, letters patent and copyright, may be illustrated
by reference to the subjects just enumerated. Take the case of medicines. Certain
mixtures are found to be of great value in the healing art. If the discoverer writes and
publishes a book on the subject (as regular physicians generally do), he gains no
exclusive right to the manufacture and sale of the medicine; he gives that to the public.
If he desires to acquire such exclusive right, he must obtain a patent for the mixture as
a new art, manufacture or composition of matter. He may copyright his book, if he
pleases; but that only secures to him the exclusive right of printing and publishing his
book. So of all other inventions or discoveries.

The copyright of a book on perspective, no matter how many drawings and illustrations
it may contain, gives no exclusive right to the modes of drawing described, though they
may never have been known or used before. By publishing the book without getting a
patent for the art, the latter is given to the public.

. . . .

Now, whilst no one has a right to print or publish his book or any material part thereof,
as a hook intended to convey instruction in the art, any person may practice and use
the, art itself which he has described and illustrated therein. The use of the art is a
totally different thing from a publication of the book, explaining it. The copyright of a
book on bookkeeping cannot secure the exclusive right to make, sell and use account
books prepared upon the plan set forth in such book. Whether the art might or might
not have been patented, is a question, which is not before us. It was not patented, and
is open and free to the use of the public. And, of course, in using the art, the ruled lines
and headings of accounts must necessarily be used as incident to it.

The plausibility of the claim put forward by the complainant in this case arises from a
confusion of ideas produced by the peculiar nature of the art described in the books,
which have been made the subject of copyright. In describing the art, the illustrations
and diagrams employed happened to correspond more closely than usual with the actual
work performed by the operator who uses the art. x x x The description of the art in a
book, though entitled to the benefit of copyright, lays no foundation for an exclusive
claim to the art itself. The object of the one is explanation; the object of the other is
use. The former may be secured by copyright. The latter can only be secured, if it can
be secured at all, by letters patent."94(Emphasis supplied)
News or the event itself is not copyrightable. However, an event can be captured and
presented in a specific medium. As recognized by this court in Joaquin, television
"involves a whole spectrum of visuals and effects, video and audio."95 News coverage in
television involves framing shots, using images, graphics, and sound effects. It involves
creative process and originality. Television news footage is an expression of the news.

In the United States, a line of cases dwelt on the possibility of television newscasts to be
copyrighted.97Most of these cases focused on private individuals' sale or resale of tapes
of news broadcasts. Conflicting decisions were rendered by its courts. Noteworthy,
however, is the District Court's pronouncement in Pacific & Southern Co. v.
Duncan,98 which involves a News Monitoring Service's videotaping and sale of WXIA-TVs
news broadcasts:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It is axiomatic that copyright protection does not extend to news "events" or
the facts or ideas which are the subject of news reports. Miller v. Universal City
Studios, Inc., 650 F.2d 1365, 1368 (5th Cir. 1981); Wainwright Securities, Inc. v. Wall
Street Transcript Corp., 558 F.2d 91, 95 (2d Cir. 1977), cert, denied, 434 U.S. 1014, 98
S.Ct. 730, 54 L.Ed.2d 759 (1978). But it is equally well-settled that copyright
protection does extend to the reports themselves, as distinguished from the
substance of the information contained in the reports. Wainwright, 558 F.2d at
95; International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215, 39 S.Ct. 68, 63 L.Ed.
211 (1918); see Chicago Record-Herald Co. v. Tribune Assn., 275 F. 797 (7th Cir.1921);
1 Nimmer on Copyright 2.11[B] (1983). Copyright protects the manner of
expression of news reports, "the particular form or collocation of words in
which the writer has communicated it" International News Service, 248 U.S. at 234,
39 S.Ct. at 70. Such protection extends to electronic news reports as well as written
reports. See 17 U.S.C. 102(a) (5), (6), and (7); see also Iowa State University
Research Foundations, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 621 F.2d 57, 61 (2d Cir.
1980)." (Emphasis supplied)
The idea/expression dichotomy has long been subject to debate in the field of copyright
law. Abolishing the dichotomy has been proposed, in that non-protectibility of ideas
should be re-examined, if not stricken, from decisions and the
law:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
If the underlying purpose of the copyright law is the dual one expressed by Lord
Mansfield, the only excuse for the continuance of the idea-expression test as a judicial
standard for determining protectibility would be that it was or could be a truly useful
method of determining the proper balance between the creator's right to profit from his
work and the public's right that the "progress of the arts not be retarded."

. . . [A]s used in the present-day context[,] the dichotomy has little or no relationship to
the policy which it should effectuate. Indeed, all too often the sweeping language of the
courts regarding the nonprotectibility of ideas gives the impression that this is of itself a
policy of the law, instead of merely a clumsy and outdated tool to achieve a much more
basic end.100
The idea/expression dichotomy is a complex matter if one is trying to determine whether
a certain material is a copy of another.101 This dichotomy would be more relevant in
determining, for instance, whether a stage play was an infringement of an author's book
involving the same characters and setting. In this case, however, respondents admitted
that the material under review which is the subject of the controversy is an exact
copy of the original. Respondents did not subject ABS-CBN's footage to any editing of
their own. The news footage did not undergo any transformation where there is a need
to track elements of the original.

Having established the protectible nature of news footage, we now discuss the
concomitant rights accorded to authors. The authors of a work are granted several rights
in relation to it, including copyright or economic rights:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SECTION 177. Copyright or Economic Rights. Subject to the provisions of Chapter
VIII, copyright or economic rights shall consist of the exclusive right to carry out,
authorize or prevent the following acts:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
177.1. Reproduction of the work or substantial portion of the work;

177.2. Dramatization, translation, adaptation, abridgment, arrangement or other


transformation of the work;

177.3. The first public distribution of the original and each copy of the work by sale or
other forms of transfer of ownership;

177.4. Rental of the original or a copy of an audiovisual or cinematographic work, a


work embodied in a sound recording, a computer program, a compilation of data
and other materials or a musical work in graphic form, irrespective of the
ownership of the original or the copy which is the subject of the rental; (n)

177.5. Public display of the original or a copy of the work;

177.6. Public performance of the work; and

177.7. Other communication to the public of the work. (Sec. 5, P. D. No. 49a)
(Emphasis supplied)
Under Section 211 of the Intellectual Property Code, broadcasting organizations are
granted a more specific set of rights called related or neighboring
rights:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SECTION 211. Scope of Right. Subject to the provisions of Section 212, broadcasting
organizations shall enjoy the exclusive right to carry out, authorize or prevent any of the
following acts:
211.1. The rebroadcasting of their broadcasts;

211.2. The recording in any manner, including the making of films or the use of video
tape, of their broadcasts for the purpose of communication to the public of
television broadcasts of the same; and
211.3. The use of such records for fresh transmissions or for fresh recording. (Sec. 52,
P.D. No. 49) (Emphasis supplied)
Section 212 of the Code provides:

CHAPTER XV
LIMITATIONS ON PROTECTION

Section 212. Limitations on Rights. - Sections 203, 208 and 209 shall not apply where
the acts referred to in those Sections are related to:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
212.1. The use by a natural person exclusively for his own personal purposes;

212.2. Using short excerpts for reporting current events;

212.3. Use solely for the purpose of teaching or for scientific research; and

212.4. Fair use of the broadcast subject to the conditions under Section 185. (Sec. 44,
P.D. No. 49a)
The Code defines what broadcasting is and who broadcasting organizations
include:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
202.7. "Broadcasting" means the transmission by wireless means for the public
reception of sounds or of images or of representations thereof; such transmission by
satellite is also "broadcasting" where the means for decrypting are provided to the public
by the broadcasting organization or with its consent;

202.8. "Broadcasting organization" shall include a natural person or a juridical entity


duly authorized to engage in broadcasting[.]
Developments in technology, including the process of preserving once ephemeral works
and disseminating them, resulted in the need to provide a new kind of protection as
distinguished from copyright.102 The designation "neighboring rights" was abbreviated
from the phrase "rights neighboring to copyright."103 Neighboring or related rights are
of equal importance with copyright as established in the different conventions covering
both kinds of rights.104

Several treaties deal with neighboring or related rights of copyright.105 The most
prominent of these is the "International Convention for the Protection of Performers,
Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations" (Rome Convention).106

The Rome Convention protects the rights of broadcasting organizations in relation to


their broadcasts. Article XIII of the Rome Convention enumerates the minimum rights
accorded to broadcasting organizations:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Article 13
Minimum Rights for Broadcasting Organizations

Broadcasting organisations shall enjoy the right to authorize or prohibit:

(a) the rebroadcasting of their broadcasts;

(b) the fixation of their broadcasts;

(c) the reproduction:

(i) of fixations, made without their consent, of their broadcasts;

(ii) of fixations, made in accordance with the provisions of Article 15, of their
broadcasts, if the reproduction is made for purposes different from those
referred to in those provisions;
(d) the communication to the public of their television broadcasts if such
communication is made in places accessible to the public against payment of an
entrance fee; it shall be a matter for the domestic law of the State where protection
of this right is claimed to determine the conditions under which it may be exercised.
With regard to the neighboring rights of a broadcasting organization in this jurisdiction,
this court has discussed the difference between broadcasting and
rebroadcasting:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Section 202.7 of the IP Code defines broadcasting as "the transmission by wireless
means for the public reception of sounds or of images or of representations thereof;
such transmission by satellite is also 'broadcasting' where the means for decrypting are
provided to the public by the broadcasting organization or with its consent."

On the other hand, rebroadcasting as defined in Article 3(g) of the International


Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting
Organizations, otherwise known as the 1961 Rome Convention, of which the Republic of
the Philippines is a signatory, is "the simultaneous broadcasting by one broadcasting
organization of the broadcast of another broadcasting organization."

. . . .

Under the Rome Convention, rebroadcasting is "the simultaneous broadcasting by one


broadcasting organization of the broadcast of another broadcasting organization." The
Working Paper prepared by the Secretariat of the Standing Committee on Copyright and
Related Rights defines broadcasting organizations as "entities that take the financial and
editorial responsibility for the selection and arrangement of, and investment in, the
transmitted content."107 (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)
Broadcasting organizations are entitled to several rights and to the protection of these
rights under the Intellectual Property Code. Respondents' argument that the subject
news footage is not copyrightable is erroneous. The Court of Appeals, in its assailed
Decision, correctly recognized the existence of ABS-CBN's copyright over the news
footage:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Surely, private respondent has a copyright of its news coverage. Seemingly, for airing
said video feed, petitioner GMA is liable under the provisions of the Intellectual Property
Code, which was enacted purposely to protect copyright owners from infringement.108
News as expressed in a video footage is entitled to copyright protection. Broadcasting
organizations have not only copyright on but also neighboring rights over their
broadcasts. Copyrightability of a work is different from fair use of a work for purposes
of news reporting.cralawlawlibrary

VI

ABS-CBN assails the Court of Appeals' ruling that the footage shown by GMA-7 falls
under the scope of Section 212.2 and 212.4 of the Intellectual Property
Code:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The evidence on record, as well as the discussions above, show that the footage used by
[respondents] could hardly be characterized as a short excerpt, as it was aired over one
and a half minutes.

Furthermore, the footage used does not fall under the contemplation of Section 212.2 of
the Intellectual Property Code. A plain reading of the provision would reveal that
copyrighted material referred to in Section 212 are short portions of an artist's
performance under Section 203, or a producer's sound recordings under Sections 208
and 209. Section 212 does not refer to actual use of video footage of another as its own.

. . . .

The Angelo dela Cruz footage does not fall under the rule on Section 212.4 of the
Intellectual Property Code on fair use of the broadcast.
In determining fair use, several factors are considered, including the nature of the
copyrighted work, and the amount and substantiality of the person used in relation to
the copyrighted work as a whole.

In the business of television news reporting, the nature of the copyrighted work or the
video footages, are such that, footage created, must be a novelty to be a good report.
Thus, when the . . . Angelo dela Cruz footage was used by [respondents], the novelty of
the footage was clearly affected.

Moreover, given that a substantial portion of the Angelo dela Cruz footage was utilized
by GMA-7 for its own, its use can hardly be classified as fair use.

Hence, [respondents] could not be considered as having used the Angelo dela Cruz
[footage] following the provisions on fair use.

It is also worthy to note that the Honorable Court of Appeals seem to contradict itself
when it relied on the provisions of fair use in its assailed rulings considering that it found
that the Angelo dela Cruz footage is not copyrightable, given that the fair use
presupposes an existing copyright. Thus, it is apparent that the findings of the
Honorable Court of Appeals are erroneous and based on wrong
assumptions.109 (Underscoring in the original)
On the other hand, respondents counter that GMA-7's use of ABS-CBN's news footage
falls under fair use as defined in the Intellectual Property Code. Respondents, citing the
Court of Appeals Decision, argue that a strong statutory defense negates any finding of
probable cause under the same statute. The Intellectual Property Code provides that
fair use negates infringement.

Respondents point out that upon seeing ABS-CBN's reporter Dindo Amparo on the
footage, GMA-7 immediately shut off the broadcast. Only five (5) seconds passed before
the footage was cut. They argue that this shows that GMA-7 had no prior knowledge of
ABS-CBN's ownership of the footage or was notified of it. They claim that the Angelo
dela Cruz footage is considered a short excerpt of an event's "news" footage and is
covered by fair use.111

Copyright protection is not absolute.112 The Intellectual Property Code provides the
limitations on copyright:

CHAPTER VIII
LIMITATIONS ON COPYRIGHT

Section 184. Limitations on Copyright. - 184.1. Notwithstanding the provisions of


Chapter V, the following acts shall not constitute infringement of copyright:

. . . .

184.2. The provisions of this section shall be interpreted in such a way as to allow the
work to be used in a manner which does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the
work and does not unreasonably prejudice the right holder's legitimate interests.

. . . .cralawlawlibrary

CHAPTER XV
LIMITATIONS ON PROTECTION

Section 212. Limitations on Rights. - Sections 203, 208 and 209 shall not apply where
the acts referred to in those Sections are related to:

. . . .
212.2. Using short excerpts for reporting current events;

212.4. Fair use of the broadcast subject to the conditions under Section 185. (Sec. 44,
P.D. No. 49a) (Emphasis supplied)
The determination of what constitutes fair use depends on several factors. Section 185
of the Intellectual Property Code states:

SECTION 185. Fair Use of a Copyrighted Work.


185.1. The fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting,
teaching including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, research, and similar
purposes is not an infringement of copyright. ... In determining whether the use made of
a work in any particular case is fair use, the factors to be considered shall
include:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

a. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of
a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
b. The nature of the copyrighted work;
c. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and
d. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work.

Respondents allege that the news footage was only five (5) seconds long, thus falling
under fair use. ABS-CBN belies this contention and argues that the footage aired for two
(2) minutes and 40 seconds.113 According to the Court of Appeals, the parties admitted
that only five (5) seconds of the news footage was broadcasted by GMA-7.114

This court defined fair use as "a privilege to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable
manner without the consent of the copyright owner or as copying the theme or ideas
rather than their expression."115 Fair use is an exception to the copyright owner's
monopoly of the use of the work to avoid stifling "the very creativity which that law is
designed to foster."116

Determining fair use requires application of the four-factor test. Section 185 of the
Intellectual Property Code lists four (4) factors to determine if there was fair use of a
copyrighted work:

a. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a
commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;

b. The nature of the copyrighted work;

c. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the


copyrighted work as a whole; and

d. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work.

First, the purpose and character of the use of the copyrighted material must fall under
those listed in Section 185, thus: "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching
including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, research, and similar
purposes."117 The purpose and character requirement is important in view of copyright's
goal to promote creativity and encourage creation of works. Hence, commercial use of
the copyrighted work can be weighed against fair use.

The "transformative test" is generally used in reviewing the purpose and character of the
usage of the copyrighted work.118 This court must look into whether the copy of the
work adds "new expression, meaning or message" to transform it into something
else.119 "Meta-use" can also occur without necessarily transforming the copyrighted work
used.120

Second, the nature of the copyrighted work is significant in deciding whether its use was
fair. If the nature of the work is more factual than creative, then fair use will be weighed
in favor of the user.

Third, the amount and substantiality of the portion used is important to determine
whether usage falls under fair use. An exact reproduction of a copyrighted work,
compared to a small portion of it, can result in the conclusion that its use is not fair.
There may also be cases where, though the entirety of the copyrighted work is used
without consent, its purpose determines that the usage is still fair.121 For example, a
parody using a substantial amount of copyrighted work may be permissible as fair use
as opposed to a copy of a work produced purely for economic gain.

Lastly, the effect of the use on the copyrighted work's market is also weighed for or
against the user. If this court finds that the use had or will have a negative impact on
the copyrighted work's market, then the use is deemed unfair.

The structure and nature of broadcasting as a business requires assigned values for each
second of broadcast or airtime. In most cases, broadcasting organizations generate
revenue through sale of time or timeslots to advertisers, which, in turn, is based on
market share: 122ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Once a news broadcast has been transmitted, the broadcast becomes relatively
worthless to the station. In the case of the aerial broadcasters, advertising sales
generate most of the profits derived from news reports. Advertising rates are, in turn,
governed by market share. Market share is determined by the number of people
watching a show at any particular time, relative to total viewers at that time. News is by
nature time-limited, and so re-broadcasts are generally of little worth because they draw
few viewers. Newscasts compete for market share by presenting their news in an
appealing format that will capture a loyal audience. Hence, the primary reason for
copyrighting newscasts by broadcasters would seem to be to prevent competing stations
from rebroadcasting current news from the station with the best coverage of a particular
news item, thus misappropriating a portion of the market share.

Of course, in the real world there are exceptions to this perfect economic
view. However, there are also many caveats with these exceptions. A common
exception is that some stations rebroadcast the news of others. The caveat is that
generally, the two stations are not competing for market share. CNN, for example, often
makes news stories available to local broadcasters. First, the local broadcaster is often
not affiliated with a network (hence its need for more comprehensive programming),
confining any possible competition to a small geographical area. Second, the local
broadcaster is not in competition with CNN. Individuals who do not have cable TV (or a
satellite dish with decoder) cannot receive CNN; therefore there is no competition. . . .
Third, CNN sells the right of rebroadcast to the local stations. Ted Turner, owner of CNN,
does not have First Amendment freedom of access argument foremost on his mind.
(Else he would give everyone free cable TV so everyone could get CNN.) He is in the
business for a profit. Giving away resources does not a profit make.123 (Emphasis
supplied)
The high value afforded to limited time periods is also seen in other media. In social
media site Instagram, users are allowed to post up to only 15 seconds of video.124 In
short-video sharing website Vine,125 users are allowed a shorter period of six (6)
seconds per post. The mobile application 1 Second Everyday takes it further by
capturing and stitching one (1) second of video footage taken daily over a span of a
certain period.126

Whether the alleged five-second footage may be considered fair use is a matter of
defense. We emphasize that the case involves determination of probable cause at the
preliminary investigation stage. Raising the defense of fair use does not automatically
mean that no infringement was committed. The investigating prosecutor has full
discretion to evaluate the facts, allegations, and evidence during preliminary
investigation. Defenses raised during preliminary investigation are subject to further
proof and evaluation before the trial court. Given the insufficiency of available evidence,
determination of whether the Angelo dela Cruz footage is subject to fair use is better left
to the trial court where the proceedings are currently pending.

GMA-7's rebroadcast of ABS-CBN's news footage without the latter's consent is not an
issue. The mere act of rebroadcasting without authority from the owner of the broadcast
gives rise to the probability that a crime was committed under the Intellectual Property
Code.cralawlawlibrary

VII

Respondents cannot invoke the defense of good faith to argue that no probable cause
exists.

Respondents argue that copyright infringement is malum in se, in that "[c]opying alone
is not what is being prohibited, but its injurious effect which consists in the lifting from
the copyright owners' film or materials, that were the result of the latter's creativity,
work and productions and without authority, reproduced, sold and circulated for
commercial use to the detriment of the latter."127

Infringement under the Intellectual Property Code is malum prohibitum. The Intellectual
Property Code is a special law. Copyright is a statutory
creation:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Copyright, in the strict sense of the term, is purely a statutory right. It is a new or
independent right granted by the statute, and not simply a pre-existing right regulated
by the statute. Being a statutory grant, the rights are only such as the statute confers,
and may be obtained and enjoyed only with respect to the subjects and by the persons,
and on terms and conditions specified in the statute.128
The general rule is that acts punished under a special law are malum prohibitum.129 "An
act which is declared malum prohibitum, malice or criminal intent is completely
immaterial."130

In contrast, crimes mala in se concern inherently immoral


acts:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Not every criminal act, however, involves moral turpitude. It is for this reason that "as
to what crime involves moral turpitude, is for the Supreme Court to determine". In
resolving the foregoing question, the Court is guided by one of the general rules that
crimes mala in se involve moral turpitude, while crimes mala prohibita do not, the
rationale of which was set forth in "Zari v. Flores" to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
It (moral turpitude) implies something immoral in itself, regardless of the fact that it is
punishable by law or not. It must not be merely mala prohibita, but the act itself must
be inherently immoral. The doing of the act itself, and not its prohibition by statute fixes
the moral turpitude. Moral turpitude does not, however, include such acts as are not of
themselves immoral but whose illegality lies in their being positively prohibited.
(Emphasis supplied)
[These] guidelines nonetheless proved short of providing a clear-cut solution, for
in International Rice Research Institute v. NLRC, the Court admitted that it cannot
always be ascertained whether moral turpitude does or does not exist by merely
classifying a crime as malum in se or as malum prohibitum. There are crimes which are
mala in se and yet but rarely involve moral turpitude and there are crimes which involve
moral turpitude and are mala prohibita only. In the final analysis, whether or not a crime
involves moral turpitude is ultimately a question of fact and frequently depends on all
the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statue.131 (Emphasis in the original)

"Implicit in the concept of mala in se is that of mens rea."132Mens rea is defined as "the
nonphysical element which, combined with the act of the accused, makes up the crime
charged. Most frequently it is the criminal intent, or the guilty mind[.]"133

Crimes mala in se presuppose that the person who did the felonious act had criminal
intent to do so, while crimes mala prohibita do not require knowledge or criminal
intent:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In the case of mala in se it is necessary, to constitute a punishable offense, for the
person doing the act to have knowledge of the nature of his act and to have a criminal
intent; in the case of mala prohibita, unless such words as "knowingly" and "willfully"
are contained in the statute, neither knowledge nor criminal intent is necessary. In other
words, a person morally quite innocent and with every intention of being a law-abiding
citizen becomes a criminal, and liable to criminal penaltes, if he does an act prohibited
by these statutes.134 (Emphasis supplied)
Hence, "[i]ntent to commit the crime and intent to perpetrate the act must be
distinguished. A person may not have consciously intended to commit a crime; but he
did intend to commit an act, and that act is, by the very nature of things, the crime
itself[.]"135 When an act is prohibited by a special law, it is considered injurious to public
welfare, and the performance of the prohibited act is the crime itself.136

Volition, or intent to commit the act, is different from criminal intent. Volition or
voluntariness refers to knowledge of the act being done. On the other hand, criminal
intent which is different from motive, or the moving power for the commission of the
crime137 refers to the state of mind beyond voluntariness. It is this intent that is being
punished by crimes mala in se.

Unlike other jurisdictions that require intent for a criminal prosecution of copyright
infringement, the Philippines does not statutorily support good faith as a defense. Other
jurisdictions provide in their intellectual property codes or relevant laws that mens
rea, whether express or implied, is an element of criminal copyright infringement.138

In Canada, criminal offenses are categorized under three (3) kinds: "the full mens rea
offence, meaning the accused's actual or subjective state of mind has to be
proved; strict liability offences where no mens rea has to be proved but the accused can
avoid liability if he can prove he took all reasonable steps to avoid the particular event;
[and] absolute liability offences where Parliament has made it clear that guilt follows
proof of the prescribed act only."139 Because of the use of the word "knowingly" in
Canada's Copyright Act, it has been held that copyright infringement is a full mens
rea offense.140

In the United States, willful intent is required for criminal copyright


infringement.141 Before the passage of the No Electronic Theft Act, "civil copyright
infringements were violations of criminal copyright laws only if a defendant willfully
infringed a copyright 'for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial
gain.'"142 However, the No Electronic Theft Act now allows criminal copyright
infringement without the requirement of commercial gain. The infringing act may or may
not be for profit.143

There is a difference, however, between the required liability in civil copyright


infringement and that in criminal copyright infringement in the United States. Civil
copyright infringement does not require culpability and employs a strict liability
regime144 where "lack of intention to infringe is not a defense to an action for
infringement."145

In the Philippines, the Intellectual Property Code, as amended, provides for the
prosecution of criminal actions for the following violations of intellectual property rights:
Repetition of Infringement of Patent (Section 84); Utility Model (Section 108); Industrial
Design (Section 119); Trademark Infringement (Section 155 in relation to Section 170);
Unfair Competition (Section 168 in relation to Section 170); False Designations of Origin,
False Description or Representation (Section 169.1 in relation to Section 170);
infringement of copyright, moral rights, performers' rights, producers' rights, and
broadcasting rights (Section 177, 193, 203, 208 and 211 in relation to Section 217); and
other violations of intellectual property rights as may be defined by law.

The Intellectual Property Code requires strict liability for copyright infringement whether
for a civil action or a criminal prosecution; it does not require mens
rea or culpa:146ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SECTION 216. Remedies for Infringement.

216.1. Any person infringing a right protected under this law shall be liable:

a. To an injunction restraining such infringement. The court may also


order the defendant to desist from an infringement, among others, to
prevent the entry into the channels of commerce of imported goods
that involve an infringement, immediately after customs clearance of
such goods.

b. Pay to the copyright proprietor or his assigns or heirs such actual


damages, including legal costs and other expenses, as he may have
incurred due to the infringement as well as the profits the infringer
may have made due to such infringement, and in proving profits the
plaintiff shall be required to prove sales only and the defendant shall
be required to prove every element of cost which he claims, or, in
lieu of actual damages and profits, such damages which to the court
shall appear to be just and shall not be regarded as penalty.

c. Deliver under oath, for impounding during the pendency of the action,
upon such terms and conditions as the court may prescribe, sales
invoices and other documents evidencing sales, all articles and their
packaging alleged to infringe a copyright and implements for making
them.

d. Deliver under oath for destruction without any compensation all


infringing copies or devices, as well as all plates, molds, or other
means for making such infringing copies as the court may order.

e. Such other terms and conditions, including the payment of moral and
exemplary damages, which the court may deem proper, wise and
equitable and the destruction of infringing copies of the work even in
the event of acquittal in a criminal case.

216.2. In an infringement action, the court shall also have the power to order the
seizure and impounding of any article which may serve as evidence in the court
proceedings. (Sec. 28. P.D. No. 49a)

SECTION 217, Criminal Penalties.

217.1. Any person infringing any right secured by provisions of Part IV of this Act or
aiding or abetting such infringement shall be guilty of a crime punishable by:

a. Imprisonment of one (1) year to three (3) years plus a fine ranging
from Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000) to One hundred fifty thousand
pesos (P150,000) for the first offense.

b. Imprisonment of three (3) years and one (1) day to six (6) years plus
a fine ranging from One hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150,000) to
Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) for the second offense.

c. Imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1) day to nine (9) years plus a
fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) to One
million five hundred thousand pesos (P1,500,000) for the third
and subsequent offenses.

d. In all cases, subsidiary imprisonment in cases of insolvency.

217.2. In determining the number of years of imprisonment and the amount of fine, the
court shall consider the value of the infringing materials that the defendant has
produced or manufactured and the damage that the copyright owner has suffered by
reason of the infringement.

217.3. Any person who at the time when copyright subsists in a work has in his
possession an article which he knows, or ought to know, to be an infringing copy of the
work for the purpose of:

a. Selling, letting for hire, or by way of trade offering or exposing for


sale, or hire, the article;

b. Distributing the article for purpose of trade, or for any other purpose
to an extent that will prejudice the rights of the copyright owner in the
work; or

c. Trade exhibit of the article in public, shall be guilty of an offense and


shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment and fine as above
mentioned. (Sec. 29, P.D. No. 49a) (Emphasis supplied)

The law is clear. Inasmuch as there is wisdom in prioritizing the flow and exchange of
ideas as opposed to rewarding the creator, it is the plain reading of the law in
conjunction with the actions of the legislature to which we defer. We have continuously
"recognized the power of the legislature . . . to forbid certain acts in a limited class of
cases and to make their commission criminal without regard to the intent of the doer.
Such legislative enactments are based on the experience that repressive measures
which depend for their efficiency upon proof of the dealer's knowledge or of his intent
are of little use and rarely accomplish their purposes."147

Respondents argue that live broadcast of news requires a different treatment in terms of
good faith, intent, and knowledge to commit infringement. To argue this point, they rely
on the differences of the media used in Habana et al. v. Robles, Columbia Pictures v.
Court of Appeals, and this case:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Petitioner ABS-CBN argues that lack of notice that the Angelo dela Cruz was under
embargo is not a defense in copyright infringement and cites the case of Columbia
Pictures vs. Court of Appeals and Habana et al. vs. Robles (310 SCRA 511). However,
these cases refer to film and literary work where obviously there is "copying" from an
existing material so that the copier knew that he is copying from an existing material not
owned by him. But, how could respondents know that what they are "copying was not
[theirs]" when they were not copying but merely receiving live video feed from
Reuters and CNN which they aired? What they knew and what they aired was
the Reuters live video feed and the CNN feed which GMA-7 is authorized to carry in
its news broadcast, it being a subscriber of these companies[.]

It is apt to stress that the subject of the alleged copyright infringement is not a film or
literary work but live broadcast of news footage. In a film or literary work, the infringer
is confronted face to face with the material he is allegedly copying and therefore knows,
or is presumed to know, that what he is copying is owned by another. Upon the other
hand, in live broadcast, the alleged infringer is not confronted with the fact that the
material he airs or re-broadcasts is owned by another, and therefore, he cannot be
charged of knowledge of ownership of the material by another. This specially obtains in
the Angelo dela Cruz news footage which GMA-7 received from Reuters and CNN.
Reuters and CNN were beaming live videos from the coverage which GMA-7 received as
a subscriber and, in the exercise of its rights as a subscriber, GMA-7 picked up the live
video and simultaneously re-broadcast it. In simultaneously broadcasting the live video
footage of Reuters, GMA-7 did not copy the video footage of petitioner ABS-
CBN[.]148(Emphasis in the original)
Respondents' arguments must fail.

Respondents are involved and experienced in the broadcasting business. They knew that
there would be consequences in carrying A.BS-CBN's footage in their broadcast. That is
why GMA-7 allegedly cut the feed from Reuters upon seeing ABS-CBN's logo and
reporter. To admit a different treatment for broadcasts would mean abandonment of a
broadcasting organization's minimum rights, including copyright on the broadcast
material and the right against unauthorized re broadcast of copyrighted material. The
nature of broadcast technology is precisely why related or neighboring rights were
created and developed. Carving out an exception for live broadcasts would go against
our commitments under relevant international treaties and agreements, which provide
for the same minimum rights.149

Contrary to respondents' assertion, this court in Habana,150 reiterating the ruling


in Columbia Pictures,151 ruled that lack of knowledge of infringement is not a valid
defense. Habana and Columbia Pictures may have different factual scenarios from this
case, but their rulings on copyright infringement are analogous. In Habana, petitioners
were the authors and copyright owners of English textbooks and workbooks. The case
was anchored on the protection of literary and artistic creations such as books.
In Columbia Pictures, video tapes of copyrighted films were the subject of the copyright
infringement suit.

In Habana, knowledge of the infringement is presumed when the infringer commits the
prohibited act:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The essence of intellectual piracy should be essayed in conceptual terms in order to
underscore its gravity by an appropriate understanding thereof. Infringement of a
copyright is a trespass on a private domain owned and occupied by the owner of the
copyright, and, therefore, protected by law, and infringement of copyright, or piracy,
which is a synonymous term in this connection, consists in the doing by any person,
without the consent of the owner of the copyright, of anything the sole right to do which
is conferred by statute on the owner of the copyright.

. . . .

A copy of a piracy is an infringement of the original, and it is no defense that the pirate,
in such cases, did not know whether or not he was infringing any copyright; he at least
knew that what he was copying was not his, and he copied at his peril.

. . . .

In cases of infringement, copying alone is not what is prohibited. The copying must
produce an "injurious effect". Here, the injury consists in that respondent Robles lifted
from petitioners' book materials that were the result of the latter's research work and
compilation and misrepresented them as her own. She circulated the book DEP for
commercial use and did not acknowledge petitioners as her source.152 (Emphasis
supplied)
Habana and Columbia Pictures did not require knowledge of the infringement to
constitute a violation of the copyright. One does not need to know that he or she is
copying a work without consent to violate copyright law. Notice of fact of the embargo
from Reuters or CNN is not material to find probable cause that respondents committed
infringement. Knowledge of infringement is only material when the person is charged of
aiding and abetting a copyright infringement under Section 217 of the Intellectual
Property Code.153
We look at the purpose of copyright in relation to criminal prosecutions requiring
willfulness:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Most importantly, in defining the contours of what it means to willfully infringe copyright
for purposes of criminal liability, the courts should remember the ultimate aim of
copyright. Copyright is not primarily about providing the strongest possible protection
for copyright owners so that they have the highest possible incentive to create more
works. The control given to copyright owners is only a means to an end: the promotion
of knowledge and learning. Achieving that underlying goal of copyright law also requires
access to copyrighted works and it requires permitting certain kinds of uses of
copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright owner. While a particular
defendant may appear to be deserving of criminal sanctions, the standard for
determining willfulness should be set with reference to the larger goals of copyright
embodied in the Constitution and the history of copyright in this country.154
In addition, "[t]he essence of intellectual piracy should be essayed in conceptual terms
in order to underscore its gravity by an appropriate understanding thereof. Infringement
of a copyright is a trespass on a private domain owned and occupied by the owner of the
copyright, and, therefore, protected by law, and infringement of copyright, or piracy,
which is a synonymous term in this connection, consists in the doing by any person,
without the consent of the owner of the copyright, of anything the sole right to do which
is conferred by statute on the owner of the copyright."155

Intellectual property rights, such as copyright and the neighboring right against
rebroadcasting, establish an artificial and limited monopoly to reward creativity. Without
these legally enforceable rights, creators will have extreme difficulty recovering their
costs and capturing the surplus or profit of their works as reflected in their markets.
This, in turn, is based on the theory that the possibility of gain due to creative work
creates an incentive which may improve efficiency or simply enhance consumer welfare
or utility. More creativity redounds to the public good.

These, however, depend on the certainty of enforcement. Creativity, by its very nature,
is vulnerable to the free rider problem. It is easily replicated despite the costs to and
efforts of the original creator. The more useful the creation is in the market, the greater
the propensity that it will be copied. The most creative and inventive individuals are
usually those who are unable to recover on their creations.

Arguments against strict liability presuppose that the Philippines has a social, historical,
and economic climate similar to those of Western jurisdictions. As it stands, there is a
current need to strengthen intellectual property protection.

Thus, unless clearly provided in the law, offenses involving infringement of copyright
protections should be considered malum prohibitum. It is the act of infringement, not
the intent, which causes the damage. To require or assume the need to prove intent
defeats the purpose of intellectual property protection.

Nevertheless, proof beyond reasonable doubt is still the standard for criminal
prosecutions under the Intellectual Property Code.cralawlawlibrary

VIII

Respondents argue that GMA-7's officers and employees cannot be held liable for
infringement under the Intellectual Property Code since it does not expressly provide
direct liability of the corporate officers. They explain that "(i) a corporation may be
charged and prosecuted for a crime where the penalty is fine or both imprisonment and
fine, and if found guilty, may be fined; or (ii) a corporation may commit a crime but if
the statute prescribes the penalty therefore to be suffered by the corporate officers,
directors or employees or other persons, the latter shall be responsible for the
offense."156

Section 217 of the Intellectual Property Code states that "any person" may be found
guilty of infringement. It also imposes the penalty of both imprisonment and
fine:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Section 217. Criminal Penalties. - 217.1. Any person infringing any right secured by
provisions of Part IV of this Act or aiding or abetting such infringement shall be guilty of
a crime punishable by:
(a) Imprisonment of one (1) year to three (3) years plus a fine ranging from Fifty
thousand pesos (P50,000) to One hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150,000) for the
first offense.

(b) Imprisonment of three (3) years and one (1) day to six (6) years plus a fine
ranging from One hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150,000) to Five hundred
thousand pesos (P500,000) for the second offense.

(c) Imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1) day to nine (9) years plus a fine ranging
from five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000) to One million five hundred thousand
pesos (P1,500,000) for the third and subsequent offenses.

(d) In all cases, subsidiary imprisonment in cases of insolvency. (Emphasis supplied)


Corporations have separate and distinct personalities from their officers or
directors.157 This court has ruled that corporate officers and/or agents may be held
individually liable for a crime committed under the Intellectual Property
Code:158ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Petitioners, being corporate officers and/or directors, through whose act, default or
omission the corporation commits a crime, may themselves be individually held
answerable for the crime. . . . The existence of the corporate entity does not shield from
prosecution the corporate agent who knowingly and intentionally caused the corporation
to commit a crime. Thus, petitioners cannot hide behind the cloak of the separate
corporate personality of the corporation to escape criminal liability. A corporate officer
cannot protect himself behind a corporation where he is the actual, present and efficient
actor.159
However, the criminal liability of a. corporation's officers or employees stems from their
active participation in the commission of the wrongful act:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The principle applies whether or not the crime requires the consciousness of
wrongdoing. It applies to those corporate agents who themselves commit the crime and
to those, who, by virtue of their managerial positions or other similar relation to the
corporation, could be deemed responsible for its commission, if by virtue of their
relationship to the corporation, they had the power to prevent the act. Moreover, all
parties active in promoting a crime, whether agents or not, are principals. Whether such
officers or employees are benefited by their delictual acts is not a touchstone of their
criminal liability. Benefit is not an operative fact. 160 (Emphasis supplied)
An accused's participation in criminal acts involving violations of intellectual property
rights is the subject of allegation and proof. The showing that the accused did the acts
or contributed in a meaningful way in the commission of the infringements is certainly
different from the argument of lack of intent or good faith. Active participation requires a
showing of overt physical acts or intention to commit such acts. Intent or good faith, on
the other hand, are inferences from acts proven to have been or not been committed.

We find that the Department of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion when it
resolved to file the Information against respondents despite lack of proof of their actual
participation in the alleged crime.

Ordering the inclusion of respondents Gozon, GMA-7 President; Duavit, Jr., Executive
Vice-President; Flores, Vice-President for News and Public Affairs; and Soho, Director for
News, as respondents, Secretary Agra overturned the City Prosecutor's finding that only
respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas are responsible for the crime charged due
to their duties.161 The Agra Resolution reads:chanroblesvi
rtuallawlibrary
Thus, from the very nature of the offense and the penalty involved, it is necessary that
GMA-7's directors, officers, employees or other officers thereof responsible for the
offense shall be charged and penalized for violation of the Sections 177 and 211 of
Republic Act No. 8293. In their complaint for libel, respondents Felipe L Gozon, Gilberto
R. Duavit, Jr., Marissa L. Flores, Jessica A. Soho, Grace Dela Pena-Reyes, John Oliver T.
Manalastas felt they were aggrieved because they were "in charge of the management,
operations and production of news and public affairs programs of the network" (GMA-7).
This is clearly an admission on respondents' part. Of course, respondents may argue
they have no intention to infringe the copyright of ABS-CBN; that they acted in good
faith; and that they did not directly cause the airing of the subject footage, but again
this is preliminary investigation and what is required is simply probable cause. Besides,
these contentions can best be addressed in the course of trial.162 (Citation omitted)

In contrast, the Office of the City Prosecutor, in the Resolution dated December 3, 2004,
found that respondents Gozon, Duavit, Jr., Flores, and Soho did not have active
participation in the commission of the crime charged:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
This Office, however, does not subscribe to the view that respondents Atty. Felipe
Gozon, Gilberto Duavit, Marissa Flores and Jessica Soho should be held liable for the said
offense. Complainant failed to present clear and convincing evidence that the said
respondents conspired with Reyes and Manalastas. No evidence was adduced to prove
that these respondents had an active participation in the actual commission of the
copyright infringement or they exercised their moral ascendancy over Reyes and
Manalastas in airing the said footage. It must be stressed that, conspiracy must be
established by positive and conclusive evidence. It must be shown to exist as clearly and
convincingly as the commission of the offense itself.163 (Emphasis supplied, citations
omitted)

The City Prosecutor found respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas liable due to
the nature of their work and responsibilities. He found that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
[t]his Office however finds respondents Grace Dla Pea-Reyes and John Oliver T.
Manalastas liable for copyright infringement penalized under Republic Act No. 8293. It is
undisputed that complainant ABS-CBN holds the exclusive ownership and copyright over
the "Angelo [d]ela Cruz news footage". Hence, any airing and re-broadcast of the said
footage without any consent and authority from ABS-CBN will be held as an infringement
and violation of the intellectual property rights of the latter. Respondents Grace Dela
Pea-Reyes as the Head of the News Operation and John Oliver T. Manalastas as the
Program Manager cannot escape liability since the news control room was under their
direct control and supervision. Clearly, they must have been aware that the said footage
coming from Reuters or CNN has a "No Access Philippines" advisory or embargo thus
cannot be re-broadcast. We find no merit to the defense of ignorance interposed by the
respondents. It is simply contrary to human experience and logic that experienced
employees of an established broadcasting network would be remiss in their duty in
ascertaining if the said footage has an embargo.164 (Emphasis supplied)
We agree with the findings as to respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas. Both
respondents committed acts that promoted infringement of ABS-CBN's footage. We note
that embargoes are common occurrences in and between news agencies and/or
broadcast organizations.165 Under its Operations Guide, Reuters has two (2) types of
embargoes: transmission embargo and publication embargo.166 Under ABS-CBN's
service contract with Reuters, Reuters will embargo any content contributed by ABS-CBN
from other broadcast subscribers within the same geographical
location:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
4a. Contributed Content

You agree to supply us at our request with news and sports news stones broadcast on
the Client Service of up to three (3) minutes each for use in our Services on a non-
exclusive basis and at a cost of US$300.00 (Three Hundred United States Dollars) per
story. In respect of such items we agree to embargo them against use by other
broadcast subscribers in the Territory and confirm we will observe all other conditions of
usage regarding Contributed Content, as specified in Section 2.5 of the Reuters Business
Principles for Television Services. For the purposes of clarification, any geographical
restriction imposed by you on your use of Contributed Content will not prevent us or our
clients from including such Contributed Content in online transmission services including
the internet. We acknowledge Contributed Content is your copyright and we will not
acquire any intellectual property rights in the Contributed Content.167 (Emphasis
supplied)
Respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas merely denied receiving the advisory sent
by Reuters to its clients, including GMA-7. As in the records, the advisory
reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
ADVISORY - - +++LIVE COVER PLANS+++
PHILIPPINES: HOSTAGE RETURN

* *ATTENTION ALL CLIENTS**

PLEASE BE ADVISED OF THE FOLLOWING LIVE COVER PLANNED FOR THURSDAY, JULY
22:

. . . .

SOURCE: ABS-CBN
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS: NO ACCESS PHILIPPINES.168
There is probable cause that respondents Dela Pea-Reyes and Manalastas directly
committed copyright infringement of ABS-CBN's news footage to warrant piercing of the
corporate veil. They are responsible in airing the embargoed Angelo dela Cruz footage.
They could have prevented the act of infringement had they been diligent in their
functions as Head of News Operations and Program Manager.

Secretary Agra, however, committed grave abuse of discretion when he ordered the
filing of the Information against all respondents despite the erroneous piercing of the
corporate veil. Respondents Gozon, Duavit, Jr., Flores, and Soho cannot be held liable
for the criminal liability of the corporation.

Mere membership in the Board or being President per se does not mean knowledge,
approval, and participation in the act alleged as criminal. There must be a showing of
active participation, not simply a constructive one.

Under principles of criminal law, the principals of a crime are those "who take a direct
part in the execution of the act; [t]hose who directly force or induce others to commit it;
[or] [t]hose who cooperate in the commission of the offense by another act without
which it would not have been accomplished."169 There is conspiracy "when two or more
persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to
commit it":170ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Conspiracy is not presumed. Like the physical acts constituting the crime itself, the
elements of conspiracy must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. While conspiracy need
not be established by direct evidence, for it may be inferred from the conduct of the
accused before, during and after the commission of the crime, all taken together,
however, the evidence must be strong enough to show the community of criminal
design. For conspiracy to exist, it is essential that there must be a conscious design to
commit an offense. Conspiracy is the product of intentionality on the part of the cohorts.

It is necessary that a conspirator should have performed some overt act as a direct or
indirect contribution to the execution of the crime committed. The overt act may consist
of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself or it may consist of
moral assistance to his co-conspirators by being present at the commission of the crime
or by exerting moral ascendancy over the other co-conspirators[.]171 (Emphasis
supplied, citations omitted)
In sum, the trial court erred in failing to resume the proceedings after the designated
period. The Court of Appeals erred when it held that Secretary Agra committed errors of
jurisdiction despite its own pronouncement that ABS-CBN is the owner of the copyright
on the news footage. News should be differentiated from expression of the news,
particularly when the issue involves rebroadcast of news footage. The Court of Appeals
also erroneously held that good faith, as. well as lack of knowledge of infringement, is a
defense against criminal prosecution for copyright and neighboring rights infringement.
In its current form, the Intellectual Property Code is malum prohibitum and prescribes a
strict liability for copyright infringement. Good faith, lack of knowledge of the copyright,
or lack of intent to infringe is not a defense against copyright infringement. Copyright,
however, is subject to the rules of fair use and will be judged on a case-to-case basis.
Finding probable cause includes a determination of the defendant's active participation,
particularly when the corporate veil is pierced in cases involving a corporation's criminal
liability.cralawred

WHEREFORE, the Petition is partially GRANTED. The Department of Justice Resolution


dated June 29, 2010 ordering the filing of the Information is hereby REINSTATED as to
respondents Grace Dela Pea-Reyes and John Oliver T. Manalastas. Branch 93 of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City is directed to continue with the proceedings in
Criminal Case No. Q-04-131533.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Carpio, Chairperson, Brion, Del Castillo, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

March 11, 2015

G.R. No. 176033

FELILIBETH AGUINALDO and BENJAMIN PEREZ, Petitioners,


vs.
REYNALDO P. VENTUS and JOJO B. JOSON, Respondents.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to
nullify and set aside the Decision1 dated August 11, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) and its
December 4, 2006 Resolution2 in CA-G.R. SP No. 92094. The CA dismissed for lack of merit the
Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 filed by petitioners Felilibeth Aguinaldo and Benjamin Perez,
praying for the following reliefs: (1) the issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary
Restraining Order to enjoin the public respondent Judge Felixberto T. Olalia from implementing the
Orders dated May 16, 2005 and August 23, 2005; (2) the issuance of a Writ of Certiorari to annul the
said Orders, and (3) the dismissal of the estafa case against them for having been prematurely filed
and for lack of cause of action.

The procedural antecedents are as follows:

On December 2, 2002, private respondents Reynaldo P. Ventus and Jojo B. Joson filed a Complaint-
Affidavit3 for estafa against petitioners Aguinaldo and Perez before the Office of the City Prosecutor
(OCP) of Manila. Claiming to be business partners in financing casino players, private respondents
alleged that sometime in March and April 2002, petitioners connived in convincing them to part with
their Two Hundred Sixty Thousand (P260,000.00) Pesos in consideration of a pledge of two motor
vehicles which the latter had misrepresented to be owned by Aguinaldo, but turned out to be owned
by one Levita De Castro, manager/operator of LEDC Rent-A-Car.

On January 15, 2003, Perez filed his Counter-Affidavit,4 denying the accusation against him, and
claiming that his only participation in the transaction between private respondents and Aguinaldo was
limited to having initially introduced them to each other.
On January 22, 2003, private respondents filed their Reply-Affidavit,5 asserting that Perez was the
one who showed them photocopies of the registration paper of the motor vehicles in the name of
Aguinaldo, as well as the one who personally took them out from the rent-a-car company.

On January 29, 2003, Perez filed his Rejoinder-Affidavit,6 stating that neither original nor photocopies
of the registration was required by private respondents to be submitted to them because from the
very start, they were informed by Aguinaldo that she merely leased the vehicles from LEDC Rent-a-
Car.

On February 25, 2003, Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Renato F. Gonzaga issued a
Resolution7 recommending both petitioners to be indicted in court for estafa under Article 315,
paragraph (2) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). He also noted that Aguinaldo failed to appear and to
submit any controverting evidence despite the subpoena.

On July 16, 2003, an Information8 (I.S. No. 02L-51569) charging petitioners with the crime of estafa
under Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the RPC was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Manila.
Docketed as Criminal Case No. 03-216182, entitled "People of the Philippines v. Felilibeth Aguinaldo
and Benjamin Perez," the case was raffled to the public respondent.

On July 31, 2003, Perez was arrested, so he filed an Urgent Motion for Reduction of Bail to be Posted
in Cash, which the public respondent granted in an Order of even date. 9

On the same day, petitioners filed through counsel a Very Urgent Motion to Recall or Quash Warrants
of Arrest,10alleging that the Resolution dated February 25, 2003 has not yet attained finality, and that
they intended to file a motion for reconsideration.

On August 4, 2003, petitioners jointly filed with the OCP of Manila their "Motion for Reconsideration
and Motion for the Withdrawal of the Information Prematurely Filed With the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 8, City of Manila."11 Citing the Counter-Affidavit and Rejoinder-Affidavit of Perez, Aguinaldo
asserted, among others, that no deceit or false pretenses was committed because private
respondents were fully aware that she does not own the pledged motor vehicles.

On August 6, 2003, the public respondent issued an Order12 granting the motion for withdrawal of
information, and directing the recall of the arrest warrant only insofar as Aguinaldo was concerned,
pending resolution of her motion for reconsideration with the OCP.

On August 9, 2003, petitioners filed an Urgent Motion for Cancellation of Arraignment, pending
resolution of their motion for reconsideration filed with the OCP of Manila. Upon the prosecution's
motion,13 the public respondent ordered the proceedings to be deferred until the resolution of
petitioners' motion for reconsideration.14

On December 23, 2003, the public respondent ordered the case archived pending resolution of
petitioners' motion for reconsideration with the OCP of Manila.15

On January 16, 2004, the OCP of Manila, through ACP Antonio M. Israel, filed a Motion to Set Case
for Trial,16considering that petitioners' motions for reconsideration and for withdrawal of the
information have already been denied for lack of merit.

On February 27, 2004, petitioners filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) a petition for review 17 in
I.S. No. 02L-51569 for estafa, entitled "Benjamin Perez and Felilibeth Aguinaldo v. Reynaldo P.
Ventus and Jojo B. Joson."

Acting on the prosecution's recommendation for the denial of petitioners' motions for reconsideration
and withdrawal of the information, and its motion to set the case for trial, the public respondent issued
an Order18 dated March 15, 2004 directing the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Aguinaldo and
the setting of the case for arraignment.

On March 26, 2004, petitioners filed an Urgent Motion to Cancel Arraignment and Suspend Further
Proceedings,19until their petition for review before the DOJ is resolved with finality. Petitioners
reiterated the same prayer in their Urgent Motion for Reconsideration 20 of the Order dated March 15,
2004.
On April 16, 2004, the public respondent granted petitioners' urgent motion to cancel arraignment and
suspend proceedings, and motion for reconsideration.21

On June 23, 2004, Levita De Castro, through the Law Firm of Lapea and Associates, filed a Motion
to Reinstate Case and to Issue Warrant of Arrest.22 De Castro alleged that she was the private
complainant in the estafa case that had been ordered archived. Petitioners filed an Opposition with
Motion to Expunge,23 alleging that De Castro is not a party to the said case, which is in active file,
awaiting the resolution of their petition for review before the DOJ.

On October 15, 2004, De Castro filed a Manifestation24 informing the public respondent that the DOJ
had already promulgated a Resolution dated September 6, 2004 denying petitioners' petition for
review in I.S. No. 02G- 29349 & 02G-28820 for estafa, entitled "Levita De Castro v. Felilibeth
Aguinaldo."25

On May 16, 2005, the public respondent issued an Order granting the Motion to Reinstate Case and
to Issue Warrant of Arrest, thus:

Pending with this Court are (1) Motion to Reinstate Case and to Issue Warrant of Arrest against
accused Aguinaldo filed by private prosecutor with conformity of the public prosecutor. x x x

It appears from the records that:

(1)the warrant of arrest issued against accused Aguinaldo was recalled pending resolution of
the Petition for Review filed with the DOJ; x x x

(2)the Petition for Review was subsequently dismissed

xxx

(3)accused Aguinaldo has not yet posted bail bond.

In view of the foregoing, (the) Motion to Reinstate Case and to Issue Warrant of Arrest is GRANTED.
Let this case be REINSTATED and let warrant of arrest be issued against accused Aguinaldo.

xxxx

SO ORDERED.26

On May 30, 2005, petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Quash Warrant of
Arrest.27

On August 23, 2005, the public respondent issued an Order denying petitioners' Motion for
Reconsideration with Motion to Quash Warrant of Arrest, and setting petitioners' arraignment, as the
Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure (or Rules of Court) allows only a 60-day period of suspension
of arraignment. Citing Crespo v. Mogul,28he also ruled that the issuance of the warrant of arrest is best
left to the discretion of the trial court. He also noted that records do not show that the DOJ has
resolved the petition for review, although photocopies were presented by De Castro.

Aggrieved, petitioners filed with the CA a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court,
attributing grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the
public respondent in issuing the Orders dated May 16, 2005 and August 23, 2005. On August 11,
2006, the CA dismissed the petition for lack of merit. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but
the CA denied it in a Resolution29 dated December 4, 2006. Hence, this instant petition for review on
certiorari.

Petitioners raise the following issues:

I.

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS FAILED TO APPRECIATE THAT THE MOTION TO


REINSTATE THE CASE AND ISSUE A WARRANT OF ARREST WAS FILED BY ONE LEVITA DE
CASTRO WHO IS NOT A PARTY TO CRIMINAL CASE NO. 03-21[6]182.
II.

A PROCEDURAL TECHINICALITY THAT THE SUSPENSION ALLOWED FOR ARRAIGNMENT IS


ALREADY BEYOND THE 60- DAY PERIOD MAY BE RELAXED IN THE INTEREST OF AN
ORDERLY AND SPEEDY ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.

III.

THE PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION ON THE I.S. NO. 02L-51569 (CRIMINAL CASE NO. 03-
21[6]182) BY THE OFFICE OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR OF MANILA HAS NOT YET BEEN
COMPLETED.30

On the first issue, petitioners argue that the public respondent erred in issuing the Order dated May
16, 2005 reinstating the case and issuing an arrest warrant against Aguinaldo. They point out that the
Motion to Reinstate the Case and to Issue a Warrant of Arrest against Aguinaldo was filed by De
Castro who is not a party in Criminal Case No. 03-216182, entitled "People of the Philippines v.
Felilibeth Aguinaldo and Benjamin Perez," instead of private complainants Reynaldo P. Ventus and
Jojo B. Joson. They also assert that said motion was erroneously granted based on the purported
denial of their petition for review by the DOJ, despite a Certification showing that their actual petition
in I.S. Number 02L-51569, entitled "Reynaldo Ventus, et al. v. Felilibeth Aguinaldo," has not yet been
resolved and is still pending with the DOJ.

On the second issue, petitioners argue that the provision of Section 11, Rule 116 of the Rules of
Court limiting the suspension for arraignment to only sixty (60) days is merely directory; thus, it
cannot deprive petitioners of their procedural right to due process, as their petition for review has not
yet been resolved by the DOJ.

On the third issue, petitioners take exception that even before they could receive a copy of the DOJ
resolution denying their petition for review, and thus move for its reconsideration, the Information in
Criminal Case No. 03-216182 had already been filed with the RTC on July 16, 2003. They contend
that such precipitate filing of the Information and issuance of a warrant of arrest put petitioners at the
risk of incarceration without the preliminary investigation having been completed because they were
not afforded their right to file a motion for reconsideration of the DOJ resolution. In support of their
contention, they raise the following arguments: that the right to preliminary investigation is a
substantive, not merely a procedural right; that an Information filed without affording the respondent
his right to file a motion for reconsideration of an adverse resolution, is fatally premature; and, that a
denial of a complete preliminary investigation deprives the accused of the full measure of his right to
due process and infringes on his constitutional right to liberty.

The petition is denied for lack of merit.

On the first issue, petitioners are correct in pointing out that the Motion to Reinstate the Case and
Issue a Warrant of Arrest31 was filed by one Levita De Castro who is not a party to Criminal Case No.
03-216182. Records show that De Castro is not even a private complainant, but a mere witness for
being the owner of the vehicles allegedly used by petitioners in defrauding and convincing private
respondents to part with their P260,000.00. Thus, the public respondent should have granted
petitioners' motion to expunge, and treated De Castro's motion as a mere scrap of paper with no legal
effect, as it was filed by one who is not a party to that case.

Petitioners are also correct in noting that De Castro's motion was granted based on the purported
dismissal of their petition for review with the DOJ. In reinstating the case and issuing the arrest
warrant against Aguinaldo, the public respondent erroneously relied on the DOJ Resolution dated
September 6, 2004 dismissing the petition for review in a different case, i.e., I.S. No. 02G-29349 &
02G-28820, entitled "Levita De Castro v. Felilibeth Aguinaldo, for two (2) counts of estafa." As
correctly noted by petitioners, however, their petition for review with the DOJ is still pending
resolution. In particular, Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Miguel F. Guido, Jr. certified that based on
available records of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, their petition for review filed in I.S.
Number 02L-51569, entitled "Reynaldo Ventus, et al. v. Felilibeth Aguinaldo" for estafa, is still
pending resolution as of May 27, 2005.32 It bears stressing that their petition stemmed from Criminal
Case No. 03-216812, entitled "People of the Philippines v. Felilibeth Aguinaldo and Benjamin Perez"
wherein the public respondent issued the interlocutory orders assailed before the CA, and now before
the Court.
On the second issue, the Court disagrees with petitioners' contention that the provision of Section 11
(c),33 Rule 116 of the Rules of Court limiting the suspension for arraignment to only sixty (60) days is
merely directory; thus, the estafa case against them cannot proceed until the DOJ resolves their
petition for review with finality.

In Samson v. Judge Daway,34 the Court explained that while the pendency of a petition for review is a
ground for suspension of the arraignment, the aforecited provision limits the deferment of the
arraignment to a period of 60 days reckoned from the filing of the petition with the reviewing office. It
follows, therefore, that after the expiration of said period, the trial court is bound to arraign the
accused or to deny the motion to defer arraignment.35

In Dio v. Olivarez,36 the Court held that it did not sanction an indefinite suspension of the proceedings
in the trial court. Its reliance on the reviewing authority, the Justice Secretary, to decide the appeal at
the soonest possible time was anchored on the rule provided under Department Memorandum Order
No. 12, dated 3 July 2000, which mandates that the period for the disposition of appeals or petitions
for review shall be seventy- five (75) days.37

In Heirs of Feraren v. Court of Appeals,38 the Court ruled that in a long line of decisions, it has
repeatedly held that while rules of procedure are liberally construed, the provisions on reglementary
periods are strictly applied, indispensable as they are to the prevention of needless delays, and are
necessary to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business. After all, rules of procedure do
not exist for the convenience of the litigants, and they are not to be trifled with lightly or overlooked by
the mere expedience of invoking "substantial justice." Relaxation or suspension of procedural rules,
or the exemption of a case from their operation, is warranted only by compelling reasons or when the
purpose of justice requires it.39

Consistent with the foregoing jurisprudence, and there being no such reasons shown to warrant
relaxation of procedural rules in this case, the CA correctly ruled, thus:

In the case at bar, the petitioners' petition for review was filed with the Secretary of Justice on
February 27, 2004. As early as April 16, 2004, upon the petitioners' motion, the arraignment of the
petitioners herein was ordered deferred by the public respondent. We believe that the period of one
year and one month from April 16, 2004 to May 16, 2005 when the public respondent ordered the
issuance of a warrant for the arrest of petitioner Aguinaldo, was more than ample time to give the
petitioners the opportunity to obtain a resolution of their petition for review from the DOJ. The
petitioners though submitted a Certification from the DOJ dated May 30, 2005 stating that their
petition for review is pending resolution by the Department as of May 27, 2005. However, such delay
in the resolution does not extend the period of 60 days prescribed under the afore-quoted Section
11(c), Rule 116 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure. Besides, the petitioners may be faulted
for the delay in the resolution of their petition. According to their counsel, she received the letter dated
April 15, 2004 from the DOJ requiring her to submit the pertinent pleadings relative to petitioners'
petition for review; admittedly, however, the same was complied with only on October 15, 2004. We
therefore find that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed
orders.40

On the third issue, the Court is likewise unconvinced by petitioners' argument that the precipitate filing
of the Information and the issuance of a warrant of arrest put petitioners at the risk of incarceration
without the preliminary investigation having been completed because they were not afforded their
right to file a motion for reconsideration of the DOJ resolution.

While they are correct in stating that the right to preliminary investigation is a substantive, not merely
a procedural right, petitioners are wrong in arguing that the Information filed, without affording the
respondent his right to file a motion for reconsideration of an adverse DOJ resolution, is fatally
premature. In support of their argument, petitioners cite Sales v. Sandiganbayan 41 wherein it was held
that since filing of a motion for reconsideration is an integral part of the preliminary investigation
proper, an Information filed without first affording the accused his right to a motion for reconsideration,
is tantamount to a denial of the right itself to a preliminary investigation.

The Court finds petitioners' reliance on Sales42 as misplaced. A closer look into said case would
reveal that the accused therein was denied his right to move for a reconsideration or a reinvestigation
of an adverse resolution in a preliminary investigation under the Rules of Procedure of the
Ombudsman before the filing of an Information. In contrast, petitioners in this case were afforded their
right to move for reconsideration of the adverse resolution in a preliminary investigation when they
filed their "Motion for Reconsideration and Motion for the Withdrawal of Information Prematurely Filed
with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, City of Manila," 43 pursuant to Section 3 of the 2000 National
Prosecution Service (NPS Rule on Appeal)44 and Section 56 of the Manual for Prosecutors45 .

With the Information for estafa against petitioners having been filed on July 16, 2003, the public
respondent cannot be faulted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the August 23, 2005 Order
denying their motion to quash warrant of arrest, and setting their arraignment, pending the final
resolution of their petition for review by the DOJ. The Court believes that the period of almost one (1)
year and seven (7) months from the time petitioners filed their petition for review with the DOJ on
February 27, 2004 to September 14, 200546 when the trial court finally set their arraignment, was more
than ample time to give petitioners the opportunity to obtain a resolution of their petition. In fact, the
public respondent had been very liberal with petitioners in applying Section 11 (c), Rule 116 of the
Rules of Court which limits the suspension of arraignment to a 60-day period from the filing of such
petition. Indeed, with more than eleven (11) years having elapsed from the filing of the petition for
review and petitioners have yet to be arraigned, it is now high time for the continuation of the trial on
the merits in the criminal case below, as the 60-day period counted from the filing of the petition for
review with the DOJ had long lapsed.

On whether petitioners were accorded their right to a complete preliminary investigation as part of
their right to due process, the Court rules in the affirmative. Having submitted his Counter-Affidavit
and Rejoinder- Affidavit to the OCP of Manila before the filing of Information for estafa, Perez cannot
be heard to decry that his right to preliminary investigation was not completed. For her part, while
Aguinaldo was not personally informed of any notice of preliminary investigation prior to the filing of
the Information, she was nonetheless given opportunity to be heard during such investigation. In
petitioners' motion for reconsideration47 of the February 25, 2003 Resolution of ACP Gonzaga,
Aguinaldo relied mostly on the Counter- Affidavit and Rejoinder-Affidavit of Perez to assail the
recommendation of the prosecutor to indict her for estafa. Since the filing of such motion for
reconsideration was held to be consistent with the principle of due process and allowed under Section
56 of the Manual for Prosecutors,48 she cannot complain denial of her right to preliminary
investigation.

Both petitioners cannot, therefore, claim denial of their right to a complete preliminary investigation as
part of their right to due process. After all, "[d]ue process simply demands an opportunity to be heard.
Due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain
their respective sides of the controversy. Where an opportunity to be heard either through oral
arguments or through pleadings is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process." 49

In fine, the Court holds that public respondent erred in issuing the May 16, 2005 Order granting the
Motion to Reinstate Case and to Issue Warrant of Arrest, as it was filed by one who is not a party to
the case, and it was based on the DOJ's dismissal of a petition for review in a different case.
Nevertheless, the Court upholds the CA ruling that the public respondent committed no grave abuse
of discretion when he issued the August 23, 2005 Order denying petitioners' motion to quash warrant
of arrest, and setting their arraignment, despite the pendency of their petition for review with the DOJ.
For one, the public respondent had been very liberal in applying Section 11 (c), Rule 116 of the Rules
of Court which allows suspension of arraignment for a period of 60 days only. For another, records
show that petitioners were given opportunity to be heard during the preliminary investigation of their
estafa case.

Considering that this case had been held in abeyance long enough without petitioners having been
arraigned, the Court directs the remand of this case to the trial court for trial on the merits with strict
observance of Circular No. 38-98 dated August 11, 1998, or the "Implementing the Provisions of
Republic Act No. 8493, entitled 'An Act to Ensure a Speedy Trial of All Criminal Cases Before the
Sandiganbayan, Regional Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities,
Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial Court, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for Other
Purposes.'" In this regard, suffice it to state that petitioners cannot invoke violation of their right to
speedy trial because Section 9 (3) of Circular No. 38-98 excludes in computing the time within which
trial must commence the delay resulting from extraordinary remedies against interlocutory orders,
such as their petitions before the CA and the Court.

Finally, in order to avoid delay in the proceedings, judges are reminded that the pendency of a motion
for reconsideration, motion for reinvestigation, or petition for review is not a cause for the quashal of a
warrant of arrest previously issued because the quashal of a warrant of arrest may only take place
upon the finding that no probable cause exists. Moreover, judges should take note of the following:

1.If there is a pending motion for reconsideration or motion for reinvestigation of the resolution of the
public prosecutor, the court may suspend the proceedings upon motion by the parties. However, the
court should set the arraignment of the accused and direct the public prosecutor to submit the
resolution disposing of the motion on or before the period fixed by the court, which in no instance
could be more than the period fixed by the court counted from the granting of the motion to suspend
arraignment, otherwise the court will proceed with the arraignment as scheduled and without further
delay.

2.If there is a pending petition for review before the DOJ, the court may suspend the proceedings
upon motion by the parties. However, the court should set the arraignment of the accused and direct
the DOJ to submit the resolution disposing of the petition on or before the period fixed by the Rules
which, in no instance, could be more than sixty (60) days from the filing of the Petition for Review
before the DOJ, otherwise, the court will proceed with the arraignment as scheduled and without
further delay.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated August 11, 2006 of
the Court of Appeals and its Resolution dated December 4, 2006 in CA-G.R. SP No. 92094, are
AFFIRMED. Considering that the proceedings in this criminal case had been held in abeyance long
enough, let the records of this case be remanded to the trial court which is hereby DIRECTED to try
the case on the merits with dispatch in accordance with the Court's Circular No. 38-98 dated August
11, 1998.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice