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1. Office of the Solicitor General vs De Castro, Aug.

3, 2007

SECOND DIVISION

OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR A.M. NO. RTJ-06-2018


GENERAL, (Formerly Adm. Matter
Complainant, OCA-IPI No. 05-2360-RTJ)

- versus - Present:

QUISUMBING, J.,
Chairperson,
JUDGE ANTONIO I. DE CASTRO, CARPIO,
Presiding Judge, Regional Trial CARPIO MORALES,
Court, Branch 3, Manila, TINGA,
Respondent. VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:
August 3, 2007
x ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ x

RESOLUTION
TINGA, J.:

On 30 September 2005, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), through Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo, filed an
administrative complaint[1] against Executive Judge Antonio Eugenio, Jr. and Judge Antonio I. De Castro (respondent),
for (a) knowingly rendering an unjust judgment; (b) grossly disregarding the law and prevailing jurisprudence; and (c)
dishonesty and abuse of authority.

The complaint stemmed from the Order dated 9 September 2005[2] issued by respondent in the habeas
corpus proceedings docketed as Special Proceedings No. 05-113455 and raffled to respondents sala. Said order
temporarily restrained the deportation of a Chinese national, Gao Yuan, for 17 days. Complainant alleges that the order
was in blatant disregard of Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 613 or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended,
the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court on habeas corpus, and prevailing jurisprudence thereon. As to
Judge Eugenio, Jr., he had earlier, on 8 September 2005, issued an order[3] restraining Gao Yuans deportation for 72
hours.

Gao Yuan is a national of the Peoples Republic of China (PROC) and holder of a special non-immigrant visa to
the Philippines and an immigrant visa to Canada. On 6 September 2005, GaoYuan, her husband James Mahshi,
a U.S. national, and their two young children were on their way to a vacation in Canada when Philippine immigration
officers arrested Gao Yuan and prevented her from boarding her flight. Gao Yuans arrest was by virtue of an order
issued by Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Alipio Fernandez, Jr., which, in turn, was a response to a
letter[4] dated 9 August 2004 from the Consul General of the PROC which alleged that Gao Yuan was a fugitive from
justice and charged with embezzlement by Chinese police and requested her arrest and deportation to
China. Gao Yuan was detained at the BI Detention Center.

James Mahshi filed on 8 September 2005 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila the Petition for the
writ of Habeas Corpus with Application for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Writ of Preliminary
Injunction,[5] impleading Commissioner Fernandez as respondent. It was alleged that Gao Yuan was illegally detained
since she is not a fugitive from justice as in fact, she was not charged with any crime at the time she left China in 2001
and [a]t such time, no case had been filed against her, no process to compel her testimony had been issued and no
travel restrictions had been imposed on her by Chinese authorities. [6] It was also alleged that Gao Yuan had filed with
the Department of Justice a petition for asylum as a political refugee. James Mahshi also filed a Supplement to
Application for TRO and Writ of Preliminary Injunction [7] praying for the amendment of the 8 September 2005 order to
include restraining Commissioner Fernandez from enforcing any order of commitment of Gao Yuan and directing her
immediate release.
On the same day, Executive Judge Eugenio, Jr. of the RTC of Manila issued a 72-hour TRO[8] enjoining the
Commissioner from initiating any deportation proceeding and/or directing the suspension of any such proceedings
against Gao Yuan. The case was then raffled to Branch 3 of the Manila RTC presided by respondent.

Commissioner Fernandez, through the OSG, filed a Return of the Writ[9] on 8 September 2005. The Return
informed the RTC that Gao Yuans passport had been cancelled on 18 November 2004[10] by the PROC and her
apprehension had been expressly requested by the Embassy of the PROC. Gao Yuans summary deportation was
already ordered[11] upon prior filing of a charge sheet[12] for being an undocumented and undesirable alien by the BI
Board of Commissioners.

On 9 September 2005, a summary hearing on the issue of injunction was held and the parties, upon the suggestion of
respondent, agreed to the extension of the 72-hour TRO by 17 days or up to 28 September 2005. The parties were
required to file their memoranda or position papers until 19 September 2005. The Commissioner was then given
until 12 September 2005 to comment on the Supplement to Application for TRO filed by James Mahshi which prayed
for the release of Gao Yuan.[13]
On 13 September 2005, respondent promulgated an Order of Release [14] directing Commissioner Fernandez
to immediately discharge the custody of Gao Yuan, she having filed her cash bond in the amount
of P250,000.00. However, upon service of the order, the BI refused to release Gao Yuan as there was no BI
clearance. Commissioner Fernandez filed an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration[15] of the said order on 16 September
2005.

During the hearing for clarificatory questioning on 16 September 2005, where Gao Yuan was presented,
respondent insisted on releasing Gao Yuan from custody. Through an interlocutory order,[16] the RTC took custody
of Gao Yuan. The RTC clarified that it was only a provisional release for the duration of the TRO or up to 28 September
2005, subject to certain conditions: the posting of an additional cash bond of P100,000.00; (2) her movements were to
be monitored by the court; (3) the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her should she try to hide; and (4) the signing
by Gao Yuan and her husband of an undertaking that she will come to court at any given time she is
called. Respondent based the provisional release on humanitarian reasons, considering that GaoYuan was merely
wanted as a witness in a case in the PROC and she is a nursing mother to a 17-month old child.

Commissioner Fernandez was compelled to file a Notice of Appeal upon Gao Yuans release from the BIs
custody.

On 19 September 2005, respondent issued an Order[17] reiterating that Gao Yuans release was only temporary,
thus making the Commissioners Notice of Appeal premature. The Commissioner was then given additional time to file
his memorandum.

On 23 September 2005, respondent ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest[18] against Gao Yuan for failing
to appear before the trial court after having been directed to do so and denied James Mahshis prayer for issuance of a
writ of injunction. [19]

Complainant OSG contends that Gao Yuans release on bail is illegal since such falls within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the Bureau of Immigration and not in the regular courts pursuant to Section 37(e) of C.A. No.
613. Citing Commissioner Rodriguez v. Judge Bonifacio,[20] complainant contends that the RTC has no power to
release the alien on bail even in habeas corpusproceedings.

Complainant also points out that the grant of injunction embodied in the 13 September 2005 Order was invalid
for the release was only prayed for in an unverified Supplement to Application for TRO and Writ of Preliminary
Injunction. In addition, the duly verified petition for habeas corpus did not include such prayer. There being no verified
application for the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction, respondent openly disregarded Sec. 4(a), Rule 58 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in issuing the 13 September 2005 Order.

Complainant insists that the Notice of Appeal it filed is proper since respondent already ordered the release
of Gao Yuan, which was the very action in the petition for habeas corpus, notwithstanding respondents reasoning that
the release was merely provisional or temporary. Respondent already decided the habeas corpus suit on the merits
and his declaration of the notice of appeal as premature is also illegal.

Lastly, complainant argues that respondent is guilty of dishonesty for making it appear that Solicitor
Danilo Leyva agreed to the extension of the TRO and did not oppose the release of GaoYuan when the contrary is true.
Both Judge Eugenio, Jr. and respondent were required to comment.

Judge Eugenio, Jr. submitted his Comment[21] dated 9 December 2005 and Supplemental
Comment[22] dated 20 December 2005. Respondent submitted his Comment[23] and Letter-Comment,[24] both dated 17
January 2006.

The case against Judge Eugenio, Jr. was dismissed per Resolution [25] dated 30 August 2006, as it was found
that even though Judge Eugenio, Jr. erred in issuing the TRO, it was a mere judgment error not meriting administrative
sanction. The same resolution also resolved to re-docket the complaint against respondent as a regular administrative
matter and refer it to a Court of Appeals Justice for investigation, report and recommendation. The case was eventually
raffled to Justice Arcangelita Romilla-Lontok.

After a hearing on 26 October 2006 and the submission of written offer of evidence of both parties,
Justice Romilla-Lontok submitted her Report and Recommendation.

As summarized in the Report and Recommendation, respondent averred in his comments that: (a) the RTC
had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the petition for habeas corpus; (b) he acted in accordance with law in issuing the
Orders dated 9, 13 and 16 September 2005; and (c) the proper remedy of a party aggrieved by the decision of a court
is to elevate the matter by appeal or certiorari and not to file an administrative case against the judge.

On the issue of jurisdiction, respondent argues that under Sec. 21 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, RTCs have
original jurisdiction in the issuance of writs of habeas corpus which may be enforced in any part of their respective
regions, and the material averments in James Mahshis petition for habeas corpus sufficiently raised the issue of
legality of Gao Yuans detention. The remedy of habeas corpus extends to all cases of illegal confinement or detention
by which any person is deprived of his liberty, and the prayer for injunctive relief enjoining the deportation of Gao Yuan
is merely incidental to the question of legality of her detention. Respondent also points out that the Summary
Deportation Order came after the filing of the habeas corpus petition, so that the jurisdiction of the RTC was already
vested upon service of summons on respondent, and the BI cannot remove such jurisdiction by issuing a Summary
Deportation Order.

Justice Romilla-Lontok agrees that the RTC, and in this particular case, Branch 3 with respondent presiding,
had clearly been vested with jurisdiction over the petition for habeas corpus, based on the allegations in the petition
that Gao Yuan had been detained even without a judicial writ or order for her commitment. [26]

As to the issuance of the Orders dated 9, 13 and 16 September 2005,


respondent observes that these were all in the nature of TROs or injunctive reliefs, so issued after careful study and
deliberation of the facts of the case and the clear presence of the requisite elements for the grant of
such reliefs. Respondent believes that the factual milieu showed that Gao Yuans right to due process of law was
whimsically disregarded. He also insists that there is no rule requiring that James Mahshis Supplement to the
application for TRO and Writ of Preliminary Injunction be verified.He adds that there was sufficient showing of grave
injustice and irreparable injury to Gao Yuan if her release was not immediately effected.

On this point, Justice Romilla-Lontok disagrees with respondent. She points out that the return of the writ filed
by the Commissioner of Immigration formally informed respondent about a deportation case against Gao Yuan with the
BI Board of Commissioners, supported by attachments consisting of the Charge Sheet and Summary Deportation
Order. From the time said return was filed, respondents actions should have been governed by Section 4, Rule 102 of
the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant thereto, the orders releasing Gao Yuan upon posting of a cash bond
and placing her under the custody of the RTC are devoid of legal basis. According to Commissioner Rodriguez v.
Judge Bonifacio,[27] cited in the Report, habeas corpus proceedings are premature and should be dismissed where the
BID has not yet completed its hearing and investigation with respect to an alien and there is no showing that it is unduly
delaying its decision. When an alien is detained by the BID pursuant to an order of deportation, RTCs have no power to
release said alien on bail even in habeas corpus proceedings, because there is no law authorizing it.

Respondent finally argues that the proper remedy of a party aggrieved by a decision of a court is to elevate the
matter by appeal or certiorari and not to file an administrative case against the judge. He insists that his acts were in
accordance with law and jurisprudence and were justified by the circumstances of the case. He views the case as
harassment and prays for its dismissal.

Justice Romilla-Lontok concedes that respondent issued the assailed orders without any ill-will, but rather was
motivated by humanitarian considerations. Thus, she concludes that his error was not due to any conscious and
deliberate effort to commit an injustice. However, she emphasized the duty of members of the judiciary to keep abreast
of the laws, rulings and jurisprudence affecting their jurisdiction. A judge owes it to the public and the administration of
justice to know the law he is supposed to apply to a given controversy and to exhibit more than just a cursory
acquaintance of such laws and procedures. Finding that respondent fell short of the conduct expected of a judge, she
recommends the imposition of a two (2)-month suspension with admonishment that similar conduct in the future will be
dealt with more severely.[28]
The Court agrees with Justice Romilla-Lontoks finding that respondents conduct has proven inadequate to
satisfy the required standards, but deems it proper to increase the period of suspension to three (3) months and one (1)
day without pay.

A petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus is a special proceeding governed by Rule 102 of the
Revised Rules of Court. The objective of the writ is to determine whether the confinement or detention is valid or
lawful. If it is, the writ cannot be issued.[29] What is to be inquired into is the legality of his detention as of, at the earliest,
the filing of the application for the writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by
reason of some supervening events, such as the instances mentioned in Sec. 4 of Rule 102, be no longer illegal at the
time of the filing of the application.[30] Section 4, Rule 102 provides:

SEC. 4. When writ not allowed or discharge authorized. If it appears that the person to be
restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by
virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the
process, render the judgment, or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the jurisdiction
appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or
defect in the process, judgment, or order. Nor shall anything in this rule be held to authorize the
discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines, or of a person
suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.

Thus, once a person detained is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a
petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. His remedy would be to quash the information
and/or the warrant of arrest duly issued. The writ of habeas corpus should not be allowed after the party sought to be
released had been charged before any court. The term court includes quasi-judicial bodies or governmental agencies
authorized to order the persons confinement,[31] like the Deportation Board of the Bureau of Immigration.[32]

In the case at bar, the petition for habeas corpus was filed on 8 September 2005 and was raffled on the same
day to respondents sala. The Return of the Writ was filed on 9 September 2004, accompanied by the Charge Sheet
dated 7 September 2005 and the Summary Deportation Order also dated 7 September 2005. When the petition was
filed by James Mahshi, a charge sheet and deportation order had already been filed against Gao Yuan. By then, the
restraint of Gao Yuans liberty was already by virtue of a lawful process. Clearly, respondents court no longer had
jurisdiction over the petition for habeas corpus and it was error for respondent to order Gao Yuans release upon the
filing of a cash bond and take full responsibility for the release and custody of Gao Yuan.

Respondents acts also disregarded the rule on burden of proof after the writ has been returned as laid down in
Sec. 13 of Rule 102. If the detention is by reason of or in pursuance of law, the return is considered prima
facie evidence of the validity of the restraint and the petitioner therein has the burden of proof to show that the restraint
is illegal.[33] The reason for this is the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed. [34] The transcript of
stenographic notes of the hearing on 16 September 2005 shows that the allegations in the return that Gao Yuan had a
pending deportation case with the BI Board of Commissioners, as shown by the Charge Sheet, and that a Summary
Deportation Order was already issued against her and that she used an expired Chinese passport in her attempt to
leave the Philippines, were not controverted by James Mahshi. It seems that respondent merely confirmed
from Gao Yuan the allegations in the petition for habeas corpus that she was not a fugitive from justice but was merely
wanted as a witness in a case and that she was a nursing mother to a 17-month old baby.[35] Believing that Gao Yuans
detention was without due process of law, respondent ordered that the court take custody of her and that she be not
returned to the BI Detention Center.[36]

The provisional or temporary release of Gao Yuan also effectively granted the petition for habeas
corpus insofar as the discharge of the detainee is concerned, since the main prayer in a petition for habeas
corpus relates to the release or discharge of the detainee. The general rule is that the release, whether permanent or
temporary, of a detained person renders the petition for habeas corpus moot and academic. Such release must be one
which is free from involuntary restraints.[37] Gao Yuans release, while still subject to certain conditions, did not unduly
restrain her movements or deprive her of her constitutional freedoms. The conditions were deemed necessary by the
court below to ensure her attendance in the subsequent hearings on the case. Said conditions did not at all restrict her
freedom of movement as she was able to elude the authorities who tried to arrest her for her failure to appear before
the trial court on 23 September 2005.[38]
Respondent may also have been under the impression that the case before him was one for extradition,
particularly because Gao Yuans arrest and detention were pursuant to a request from the PROC to hold and deport her
in connection with an embezzlement case in China. If that were so, his acts of ordering Gao Yuans release upon the
filing of a bond would have been sanctioned by this Courts ruling in Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region, represented by the Philippine Department of Justice v. Hon. Felixberto T. Olalia and Juan
Antonio Muoz[39] which allows the prospective extraditee to apply for bail, provided that he presents clear and
convincing evidence that he is not a flight risk and will abide with all the orders and processes of the extradition
court. However, the petition filed before respondent was one for habeas corpus which raised the simple issue of
whether Gao Yuan was held under lawful authority. The Return filed by the Commissioner sufficiently established the
basis of Gao Yuans detention, which were the Charge Sheet and Summary Deportation Order. By the time the petition
for habeas corpus was filed, there was already a legal basis to detain Gao Yuan. Her confinement was not illegal. It
was thus error for respondent to continue with the proceeding and thereafter order her release upon posting of a cash
bond.

It may be argued that in Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v. Olalia, the Court relied on
three deportation cases[40] which allowed bail to persons in detention during the pendency of their cases, stating that if
bail can be granted in deportation cases, there is no justification why it should not also be allowed in extradition
cases. However, circumstances peculiar to the three deportation cases existed that warranted admission to bail. In US
v. Go-Sioco, where a Chinese facing deportation for failure to secure the necessary certificate of registration was
granted bail pending his appeal, it was noted that said Chinese had committed no crime, was born in the Philippines
and lived here for more than 35 years, and at the time of the case was living here with his mother, a Filipina. Said case
was also brought under Act No. 702 which falls, by provision of said law, under the jurisdiction of the courts of
justice. In Mejoff v. Director of Prisons and Chirskoff v. Commissioner of Immigration, the proposed deportees were
stateless foreign nationals, not enemies, against whom no criminal charges had been formally made and who had been
under detention for over two years after attempts at having them deported failed. No such extraordinary circumstances
appear in the case at bar.

It should be noted too that Section 37 (9) (e) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended, provides
that [a]ny alien under arrest in a deportation proceeding may be released under bond or under such other conditions as
may be imposed by the Commissioner of Immigration. This provision confers upon the Commissioner the power and
discretion to grant bail in deportation proceedings, but does not grant to aliens the right to be released on bail. The
exercise by the Commissioner of such power is discretionary. So too, the determination of the propriety of allowing the
temporary release on bail of the alien, subject to deportation under the Immigration Act, as well as the conditions of
such release falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commissioner, not the courts of justice. The reason for this is
that the courts do not administer immigration laws. The power of the Commissioner to grant bail in deportation
proceedings should be exercised when the alien is still under investigation, and not after the order of deportation has
been issued by the BI.[41] When an alien is detained by the BI for deportation pursuant to an order of deportation by the
Deportation Board, the courts of first instance, now RTCs, have no power to release such alien on bail, even in habeas
corpus proceedings because there is no law authorizing it.[42]

Thus, we find respondents failure to observe the law and procedure on petitions for habeas corpus inexcusable,
albeit done in good faith for humanitarian considerations and in the honest belief that Gao Yuans detention was in
violation of due process. Accordingly, respondent is administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law.

Ordinarily, to constitute gross ignorance of the law, the subject decision, order, or actuation of the judge in the
performance of his official duties should be contrary to existing law and jurisprudence, and most importantly, he must
be moved by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.[43] In the present case, there is no finding of bad faith or malice,
but this does not excuse respondent. When the law is sufficiently basic, a judge owes it to his office to simply apply it,
and anything less than that would be constitutive of gross ignorance of the law. In short, when the law is so
elementary, not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.[44] While judges should not be held accountable
for every erroneous judgment rendered in good faith, such good faith is no defense where the basic issues are simple
and the applicable legal principle evident and basic as to be beyond permissible margins of error. [45]

A judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules; it is
imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and aware of well-settled authoritative
doctrines.[46] Competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.[47] When a judge
displays an utter unfamiliarity with the law and the rules, he erodes the confidence of the public in the courts. [48] There
will be great faith in the administration of justice only if the party litigants believe that the occupants of the bench cannot
justly be accused of apparent deficiency in their grasp of legal principles.[49] For disregarding jurisprudential
pronouncements and basic legal principles, respondent should be held liable.
Under Section 8 of A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, amending Rule 140 of the Rules of Court on the Discipline of Justices
and Judges, which took effect on October 1, 2001, gross ignorance of the law is classified as a serious charge which
carries with it a penalty of either dismissal from service, suspension from office without salary and other benefits for
more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months, or a fine of more than P20,000.00 but not
exceeding P40,000.00. Since it has not been established that the infraction was motivated by malice or bad

faith, and in the absence of a showing that respondent had earlier been found to have committed an administrative
offense, it is just and reasonable to impose upon him the penalty of suspension of three (3) months and one (1) day.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Antonio I. De Castro of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 3,
City of Manila, guilty of gross ignorance of the law and is hereby SUSPENDED for a period of THREE (3) MONTHS
AND ONE (1) DAY without pay, with a WARNING that commission of a similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

2. Daan vs Sandiganbayan, March 28, 2008

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN, G.R. Nos. 163972-77


Petitioner,
Present:

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.,
- versus - Acting Chairperson,
TINGA,*
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN
(Fourth Division), Promulgated:
Respondent. March 28, 2008
x---------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Joselito Raniero J. Daan (petitioner), one of the accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 24167-24170, 24195-24196,[1] questions the denial
by the Sandiganbayan of his plea bargaining proposal.

The antecedents facts are laid down by Sandiganbayan in its Resolution dated March 25, 2004, as follows:

Said accused,[2] together with accused Benedicto E. Kuizon, were charged before this Court for three counts
of malversation of public funds involving the sums of P3,293.00, P1,869.00, and P13,528.00, respectively, which
they purportedly tried to conceal by falsifying the time book and payrolls for given period making it appear that
some laborers worked on the construction of the new municipal hall building of Bato, Leyte and collected their
respective salaries thereon when, in truth and in fact, they did not. Thus, in addition to the charge for malversation,
the accused were also indicted before this Court for three counts of falsification of public document by a public
officer or employee.
In the falsification cases, the accused offered to withdraw their plea of not guilty and substitute the same with a plea
of guilty, provided, the mitigating circumstances of confession or plea of guilt and voluntary surrender will be
appreciated in their favor. In the alternative, if such proposal is not acceptable, said accused proposed instead to
substitute their plea of not guilty to the crime of falsification of public document by a public officer or employee with a
plea of guilty, but to the lesser crime of falsification of a public document by a private individual. On the other hand,
in the malversation cases, the accused offered to substitute their plea of not guilty thereto with a plea of guilty, but to
the lesser crime of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts.
Insofar as the falsification cases are concerned, the prosecution found as acceptable the proposal of the accused
to plead guilty to the lesser crime of falsification of public document by a private individual. The prosecution
explained:
With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of the
accused in pleading guilty for a lesser offense of falsification by a private individual defined and
penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal code will strengthen our cases against the
principal accused, Municipal Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears to be the master mind of
these criminal acts.
Insofar as the malversation cases are concerned, the prosecution was likewise amenable to the offer of said
accused to plead guilty to the lesser crime of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts because:
x x x JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted the total amount of P18,860.00 as
per official receipt issued by the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In
short, the damage caused to the government has already been restituted x x x.[3]

The Sandiganbayan, in the herein assailed Resolution,[4] dated March 25, 2004, denied petitioners Motion to Plea Bargain, despite
favorable recommendation by the prosecution, on the main ground that no cogent reason was presented to justify its approval.[5]

The Sandiganbayan likewise denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration in a Resolution dated May 31, 2004.

This compelled petitioner to file the present case for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining
order and/ or writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

Petitioner argues that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in denying his plea bargaining offer on the following
grounds: first, petitioner is not an accountable officer and he merely affixed his signature on the payrolls on a routinary basis, negating
any criminal intent; and that the amount involved is only P18,860.00, which he already restituted.[6]

The petition is meritorious.

Plea bargaining in criminal cases is a process whereby the accused and the prosecution work out a mutually satisfactory disposition
of the case subject to court approval. It usually involves the defendant's pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of
the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that for the graver charge.[7]

Plea bargaining is authorized under Section 2, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit:

SEC. 2. Plea of guilty to a 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. (sec. 4, cir. 38-98)
Ordinarily, plea bargaining is made during the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 118 of the Rules of
Court, require plea bargaining to be considered by the trial court at the pre-trial conference,[8] viz:

SEC. 1. Pre-trial; mandatory in criminal cases. In all criminal cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, Regional
Trial Court, Metropolitan Trial Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Municipal Trial Court and Municipal Circuit Trial
Court, the court shall, after arraignment and within thirty (30) days from the date the court acquires jurisdiction over
the person of the accused, unless a shorter period is provided for in special laws or circulars of the Supreme Court,
order a pre-trial conference to consider the following:

(a) plea bargaining;


(b) stipulation of facts;
(c) marking for identification of evidence of the parties;
(d) waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence;
(e) modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense; and
(f) such matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial of the criminal and civil aspects of the case.
SEC. 2. Pre-trial agreement. All agreements or admissions made or entered during the pre-trial
conference shall be reduced in writing and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot be used
against the accused. The agreements covering the matters referred to in section 1 of this Rule shall be approved
by the court. (Emphasis supplied)

But it may also be made during the trial proper and even after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence and rested its case.
Thus, the Court has held that it is immaterial that plea bargaining was not made during the pre-trial stage or that it was made only
after the prosecution already presented several witnesses.[9]

Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court presents the basic requisites upon which plea bargaining may be made, i.e., that it should
be with the consent of the offended party and the prosecutor,[10] and that the plea of guilt should be to a lesser offense which is
necessarily included in the offense charged. The rules however use word may in the second sentence of Section 2, denoting an
exercise of discretion upon the trial court on whether to allow the accused to make such plea.[11] Trial courts are exhorted to keep in
mind that a plea of guilty for a lighter offense than that actually charged is not supposed to be allowed as a matter of bargaining or
compromise for the convenience of the accused.[12]

In People of the Philippines v. Villarama,[13] the Court ruled that the acceptance of an offer to plead guilty to a lesser offense is not
demandable by the accused as a matter of right but is a matter that is addressed entirely to the sound discretion of the trial
court,[14] viz:

x x x In such situation, jurisprudence has provided the trial court and the Office of the Prosecutor with a yardstick
within which their discretion may be properly exercised. Thus, in People v. Kayanan (L-39355, May 31, 1978, 83
SCRA 437, 450), We held that the rules allow such a plea only when the prosecution does not have sufficient
evidence to establish the guilt of the crime charged. In his concurring opinion in People v. Parohinog (G.R.
No. L-47462, February 28, 1980, 96 SCRA 373, 377), then Justice Antonio Barredo explained clearly and tersely
the rationale or the law:
x x x (A)fter the prosecution had already rested, the only basis on which the fiscal and the court could rightfully
act in allowing the appellant to change his former plea of not guilty to murder to guilty to the lesser crime of
homicide could be nothing more nothing less than the evidence already in the record. The reason for this being that
Section 4 of Rule 118 (now Section 2, Rule 116) under which a plea for a lesser offense is allowed was not and
could not have been intended as a procedure for compromise, much less bargaining.[15] (Emphasis supplied)

However, Villarama involved plea bargaining after the prosecution had already rested its case.

As regards plea bargaining during the pre-trial stage, as in the present case, the trial court's exercise of its discretion should neither be
arbitrary nor should it amount to a capricious and whimsical exercise of discretion.Grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious
and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an
arbitrary 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 by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law.[16]

In the present case, the Sandiganbayan rejected petitioner's plea offer on the ground that petitioner and the prosecution failed to
demonstrate that the proposal would redound to the benefit of the public. The Sandiganbayan believes that approving the proposal
would only serve to trivialize the seriousness of the charges against them and send the wrong signal to potential grafters in public
office that the penalties they are likely to face would be lighter than what their criminal acts would have merited or that the economic
benefits they are likely to derive from their criminal activities far outweigh the risks they face in committing them; thus, setting to naught
the deterrent value of the laws intended to curb graft and corruption in government.[17]

Apparently, the Sandiganbayan has proffered valid reasons in rejecting petitioner's plea offer. However, subsequent events and
higher interests of justice and fair play dictate that petitioner's plea offer should be accepted. The present case calls for the judicious
exercise of this Court's equity jurisdiction -

Equity as the complement of legal jurisdiction seeks to reach and do complete justice where courts of law,
through the inflexibility of their rules and want of power to adapt their judgments to the special circumstances of
cases, are incompetent so to do. Equity regards the spirit of and not the letter, the intent and not the form, the
substance rather than the circumstance, as it is variously expressed by different courts.[18]

and of its power of control and supervision over the proceedings of lower courts,[19] in order to afford equal justice to petitioner.
In People of the Philippines v. Estrada,[20] the Sandiganbayan, in its Resolution dated March 14, 2007, approved the Plea Bargaining
Agreement entered into by the prosecution and one of the accused, Charlie AtongAng. The agreement provided that the accused
undertakes to assist in the prosecution of the case and promises to return the amount of P25,000,000.00. In approving the Plea
Bargaining Agreement, the Sandiganbayantook into consideration the timeliness of the plea bargaining and whether the agreement
complied with the requirements of Section 2, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court. The Sandigabayan noted that the accused had already
withdrawn his earlier plea of not guilty; and that the prosecution consented to the plea of guilt to a lesser offense; and the lesser
offense, which is Corruption of Public Officials in relation to Indirect Bribery, is necessarily included in the offense charged, which is
Plunder.[21]
The Court sees no reason why the standards applied by the Sandiganbayan to Estrada should not be applied to the present
case. Records show that there was a favorable recommendation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor to approve petitioner's
motion to plea bargain. Thus, in its Memorandum dated August 16, 2002, the Office of the Special Prosecutor rationalized:

In the cases at bar, there is no dispute that JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN has already restituted the total amount
of P18,860.00 as per official receipt issued by the provincial government of Leyte dated February 26, 2002. In short,
the damage caused to the government has already been restituted by the accused.

There is also no dispute that accused DAAN voluntarily surrendered in the instant cases. Moreover, the accused is
also willing to plead guilty to a lesser offense which to our mind, merits consideration.

With respect to the falsification cases earlier mentioned, it appears that the act of the accused in pleading guilty for
a lesser offense of falsification by private individual defined and penalized under Article 172 of the Revised Penal
Code will strengthen our cases against the principal accused, the Municipal Mayor Benedicto Kuizon, who appears
to be the master mind of these criminal acts. After all, the movants herein JOSELITO RANIERO J. DAAN was
merely designated as draftsman detailed as foreman/timekeeper of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte.[22]
Moreover, the lesser offenses of Falsification by Private Individuals and Failure to Render Account by an Accountable
Officer are necessarily included in the crimes of Falsification of Public Documents and Malversation of Public Funds, respectively,
with which petitioner was originally charged.

Under Article 171, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, for the crime of Falsification of Public Documents through an untruthful
narration of facts to be established, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender makes in a document untruthful statements
in a narration of facts; (b) the offender has a legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated; (c) the facts narrated by the
offender are absolutely false; and (d) the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful intent of injuring a
third person.[23]

On the other hand, Falsification by Private Individuals penalized under Article 172, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code has the
following elements: (a) the offender is a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his
official position; (b) the offender committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code;
and (c) the falsification was committed in a public or official or commercial document.[24]

As regards the crime of Malversation of Public Funds defined and penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, with which
petitioner was also charged, the elements are as follows: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) he has custody or control of funds or
property by reason of the duties of his office; (c) the funds or property involved are public funds or property for which he is
accountable; and (d) he has appropriated, taken or misappropriated, or has consented to, or through abandonment or negligence
permitted, the taking by another person of such funds or property.[25] Article 217 also provides that the failure of the public officer to
have duly forthcoming such public funds or property, upon demand by a duly authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he
has put such missing funds or property to personal use. In this regard, it has been ruled that once such presumption is rebutted,
then it is completely destroyed; in fact, the presumption is never deemed to have existed at all.[26]

Meanwhile, under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code, Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer, the lesser offense
which petitioner seeks to plead guilty of, the following elements must concur: (a) the offender is a public officer; (b) the offender must
be an accountable officer for public funds or property; (c) the offender is required by law or regulation to render accounts to the COA
or to a provincial auditor; and (d) the offender fails to render an account for a period of two months after such accounts should be
rendered.[27]

Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court states when an offense includes or is included in the other, to wit:

SEC. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. An offense charged necessarily includes the offense
proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information,
constitute the latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved, when the essential
ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.

An offense may be said to necessarily include another when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former as
alleged in the complaint or information constitute the latter. And vice versa, an offense may be said to be necessarily included in
another when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.[28]

In this case, the allegations in the Informations filed against petitioner are sufficient to hold petitioner liable for the lesser
offenses. Thus, in the charge for Falsification of Public Documents, petitioner may plead guilty to the lesser offense of Falsification by
Private Individuals inasmuch as it does not appear that petitioner took advantage of his official position in allegedly falsifying
the timebook and payroll of the Municipality of Bato, Leyte. In the same vein, with regard to the crime of Malversation of Public
Funds, while the Informations contain allegations which make out a case for Malversation against petitioner, nevertheless, absent the
element of conversion, theoretically, petitioner may still be held liable for Failure to Render Account by an Accountable Officer if it is
shown that the failure to render account was in violation of a law or regulation that requires him to render such an accounting within
the prescribed period.
Given, therefore, that some of the essential elements of offenses charged in this case likewise constitute the lesser offenses, then
petitioner may plead guilty to such lesser offenses.

Finally, as propounded by petitioner, indeed, he is not an accountable officer in that the nature of his duty as foreman/timekeeper
does not permit or require possession or custody of local government funds,[29] not to mention that petitioner has already restituted the
amount of P18,860.00 involved in this case. Unlike Estrada which involves a crime punishable by reclusion perpetua to death,[30] and
a whopping P25,000,000.00 taken from the public coffers, this case tremendously pales in comparison.

Under the peculiar circumstances of the present case, where gross inequity will result in a discriminatory dispensation of justice, the
Court will not hesitate to intervene in order to equalize the imbalance.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated March 25, 2004 and May 31,
2004 are SET ASIDE. The Sandiganbayan is hereby ORDERED to grant petitioner's Motion to Plea Bargain. Let records of this
case be REMANDED to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings in accordance with this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

3. Kummer vs People, GR # 174461

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 174461 September 11, 2013

LETICIA I. KUMMER, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

We decide the appeal tiled by petitioner Leticia I. Kummer assailing the April 28, 2006 decision 1 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 27609. The CA decision affirmed the July 27, 2000 judgment 2 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 4, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, finding the petitioner and her co-accused Freiderich Johan I. Kummer
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide in Criminal Case No. 1130.

The Facts

The prosecution's evidence revealed that on June 19, 1988, between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., Jesus Mallo, Jr.,
accompanied by Amiel Malana, went to the house of the petitioner. Mallo knocked at the front door with a stone and
identified himself by saying, "Auntie, ako si Boy Mallo."

The petitioner opened the door and at this point, her son and co-accused, Johan, using his left hand, shot Mallo twice
using a gun about six (6) inches long. 3 Malana, who was with Mallo and who witnessed the shooting, immediately ran
towards the west, followed by Mallo. When Malana turned his back, he saw the petitioner leveling and firing her long
gun at Mallo, hitting the latter’s back and causing him to fall flat on the ground. 4

Thereafter, the petitioner went inside the house and came out with a flashlight. Together with her co-accused, she
scoured the pathway up to the place where Mallo was lying flat. 5 At that point, the petitioner uttered,"Johan, patay na,"
in a loud voice.6 The petitioner and her co-accused putdown the guns and the flashlight they were holding, held Mallo’s
feet and pulled him to about three (3) to four (4) meters away from the house. Thereafter, they returned to the house
and turned off all the lights.7

The following morning, policeman Danilo Pelovello went to the petitioner’s house and informed her that Mallo had been
found dead in front of her house. Pelovello conducted an investigation through inquiries among the neighbors, including
the petitioner, who all denied having any knowledge of the incident.
The prosecution filed an information8 for homicide on January 12,1989 against the petitioner and Johan, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 1130.Both accused were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. They waived the
pre-trial, and the trial on the merits accordingly followed.

The petitioner denied the charge and claimed in her defense that she and her children, Johan, Melanie and Erika, were
already asleep in the evening of June 19, 1988. She claimed that they were awakened by the sound of stones being
thrown at their house, a gun report, and the banging at their door.

Believing that the noise was caused by the members of the New People’s Army prevalent in their area, and sensing the
possible harm that might be inflicted on them, Johan got a .38 cal. gun from the drawer and fired it twice outside to
scare the people causing the disturbance. The noise continued, however, with a stone hitting the window and breaking
the glass; another stone hit Melanie who was then sick. This prompted Johan to get the shotgun placed beside the door
and to fire it. The noise thereafter stopped and they all went back to sleep.

In its judgment dated July 27, 2000, the RTC found the prosecution’s evidence persuasive based on the testimonies of
prosecution eyewitnesses Ramon Cuntapay and Malana who both testified that the petitioner shot Mallo. The
testimonial evidence, coupled by the positive findings of gunpowder nitrates on the left hand of Johan and on the
petitioner’s right hand, as well as the corroborative testimony of the other prosecution witnesses, led the RTC to find
both the petitioner and Johan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.

Johan, still a minor at the time of the commission of the crime, was released on the recognizance of his father, Moises
Kummer. Johan subsequently left the country without notifying the court; hence, only the petitioner appealed the
judgment of conviction with the CA.

She contended before the CA that the RTC committed reversible errors in its appreciation of the evidence, namely: (1)
in giving credence to the testimonial evidence of Cuntapay and of Malana despite the discrepancies between their
sworn statements and direct testimonies; (2) in not considering the failure of the prosecution to cite the petitioner’s
motive in killing the victim; (3) in failing to consider that the writer of the decision, Judge Lyliha L. Abella-Aquino, was
not the judge who heard the testimonies; and (4) in considering the paraffin test results finding the petitioner positive for
gunpowder residue.

The CA rejected the petitioner’s arguments and affirmed the RTC judgment, holding that the discrepancies between the
sworn statement and the direct testimony of the witnesses do not necessarily discredit them because the contradictions
are minimal and reconcilable. The CA also ruled that the inconsistencies are minor lapses and are therefore not
substantial. The petitioner’s positive identification by the eyewitnesses as one of the assailants remained unrefuted.
The CA, moreover, held that proof of motive is only necessary when a serious doubt arises on the identity of the
accused. That the writer of the decision was not the judge who heard the testimonies of the witnesses does not
necessarily make the decision erroneous.

In sum, the CA found Malana and Cuntapay’s positive identification and the corroborative evidence presented by the
prosecution more than sufficient to convict the petitioner of the crime charged.

On further appeal to this Court, the petitioner submits the issue of whether the CA committed a reversible error in
affirming the RTC’s decision convicting her of the crime of homicide.

In essence, the case involves the credibility of the prosecution eyewitnesses and the sufficiency of the prosecution’s
evidence.

Our Ruling

We find the petition devoid of merit.

The petitioner’s conviction is anchored on the positive and direct testimonies of the prosecution eyewitnesses, which
testimonies the petitioner submits to be both inconsistent and illogical. The petitioner essentially impugns the credibility
of the witnesses on these grounds. The petitioner moreover claims that her conviction was based on doctrinal precepts
that should not apply to her case.

Variance between the eyewitnesses’


testimonies in open court and their
affidavits does not affect their
credibility
In her attempt to impugn the credibility of prosecution eyewitnesses Malana and Cuntapay, the petitioner pointed to the
following in consistencies: First, in paragraph 7 of Malana’s July 21, 1988 affidavit, he stated that after hearing two
gunshots, he dived to the ground for cover and heard another shot louder than the first two. This statement is allegedly
inconsistent with his declaration during the direct examination that he saw the petitioner and Johan fire their guns at
Mallo. Second, the July 22, 1988affidavit of Cuntapay likewise stated that he heard two burst of gun fire coming from
the direction of the petitioner’s house and heard another burst from the same direction, which statement is allegedly
inconsistent with his direct testimony where he claimed that he saw the petitioner shoot Mallo. Third, in his affidavit,
Malana declared that he ran away as he felt the door being opened and heard two shots, while in his testimony in court,
he stated that he ran away after Mallo was already hit. According to the petitioner, these and some other trivial and
minor inconsistencies in the testimony of the two witnesses effectively destroyed their credibility.

We find these claims far from convincing. The Court has consistently held that inconsistencies between the testimony
of a witness in open court, on one hand, and the statements in his sworn affidavit, on the other hand, referring only to
minor and collateral matters, do not affect his credibility and the veracity and weight of his testimony as they do not
touch upon the commission of the crime itself. Slight contradictions, in fact, even serve to strengthen the credibility of
the witnesses, as these may be considered as badges of truth rather than indicia of bad faith; they tend to prove that
their testimonies have not been rehearsed. Nor are such inconsistencies, and evenimpro babilities, unusual, for no
person has perfect faculties of senses or recall.9

A close scrutiny of the records reveals that Malana and Cuntapay positively and firmly declared in open court that they
saw the petitioner and Johan shoot Mallo. The inconsistencies in their affidavit, they reasoned, were due to the
oversight of the administering official in typing the exact details of their narration.

It is oft repeated that affidavits are usually abbreviated and inaccurate. Oftentimes, an affidavit is incomplete, resulting
in its seeming contradiction with the declarant’s testimony in court. Generally, the affiant is asked standard questions,
coupled with ready suggestions intended to elicit answers, that later turn out not to be wholly descriptive of the series of
events as the affiant knows them.10 Worse, the process of affidavit-taking may sometimes amount to putting words into
the affiant’s mouth, thus allowing the whole statement to be taken out of context.

The court is not unmindful of these on-the-ground realities. In fact, we have ruled that the discrepancies between the
statements of the affiant in his affidavit and those made by him on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit him
since ex parte affidavits are generally incomplete.11 As between the joint affidavit and the testimony given in open court,
the latter prevails because affidavits taken ex-parte are generally considered to be inferior to the testimony given in
court.12

In the present case, we find it undeniable that Malana and Cuntapay positively identified the petitioner as one of the
assailants. This is the critical point, not the inconsistencies that the petitioner repeatedly refers to, which carry no direct
bearing on the crucial issue of the identity of the perpetrator of the crime. Indeed, the inconsistencies refer only to minor
details that are not critical to the main outcome of the case. Moreover, the basic rule is that the Supreme Court accords
great respect and even finality to the findings of credibility of the trial court, more so if the same were affirmed by the CA,
as in this case.13 We find no reason to break this rule and thus find that both the RTC and the CA were correct in giving
credence to the testimonies of Malana and Cuntapay.

It is not necessary for the validity of


the judgment that it be rendered by
the judge who heard the case

The petitioner contends that the CA, in affirming the judgment of the RTC, failed to recognize that the trial court that
heard the testimonies of Malana and Cuntapay was not the same court that rendered the decision.14

We do not share this view.

The rule is settled that the validity of a judgment is not rendered erroneous solely because the judge who heard the
case was not the same judge who rendered the decision. In fact, it is not necessary for the validity of a judgment that
the judge who penned the decision should actually hear the case in its entirety, for he can merely rely on the
transcribed stenographic notes taken during the trial as the basis for his decision. 15

Thus, the contention - that since Judge Lyliha L. Abella-Aquino was not the one who heard the evidence and thereby
did not have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses - must fail. It is sufficient that the judge, in
deciding the case, must base her ruling completely on the records before her, in the way that appellate courts do when
they review the evidence of the case raised on appeal. 16 Thus, a judgment of conviction penned by a different trial
judge is not erroneous if she relied on the records available to her.

Motive is irrelevant when the


accused has been positively identified

by an eyewitness

We agree with the CA’s ruling that motive gains importance only when the identity of the assailant is in doubt. As held in
a long line of cases, the prosecution does not need to prove the motive of the accused when the latter has been
identified as the author of the crime.17

Once again, we point out that the petitioner was positively identified by Malana and Cuntapay. Thus, the prosecution
did not have to identify and prove the motive for the killing. It is a matter of judicial knowledge that persons have been
killed for no apparent reason at all, and that friendship or even relationship is no deterrent to the commission of a
crime.18

The petitioner attempts to offer the justification that the witnesses did not really witness the shooting as their affidavits
merely attested that they heard the shooting of Mallo (and did not state that they actually witnessed it). We find this to
be a lame argument whose merit we cannot recognize.

That Malana and Cuntapay have been eyewitnesses to the crime remains unrefuted. They both confirmed in their
direct testimony before the RTC that they saw the petitioner fire a gun at Mallo. This was again re-affirmed by the
witnesses during their cross examination. The fact that their respective affidavits merely stated that they heard the
gunshots does not automatically foreclose the possibility that they also saw the actual shoot in gas this was in fact what
the witnesses claimed truly happened. Besides, it has been held that the claim that "whenever a witness discloses in
his testimony in court facts which he failed to state in his affidavit taken ante litem motam, then an inconsistency exists
between the testimony and the affidavit" is erroneous. If what were stated in open court are but details or additional
facts that serve to supplement the declarations made in the affidavit, these statements cannot be ruled out as
inconsistent and may be considered by the court.

Thus, in light of the direct and positive identification of the petitioner as one of the perpetrators of the crime by not one
but two prosecution eye witnesses, the failure to cite the motive of the petitioner is of no moment.

At any rate, we find it noteworthy that the lack or absence of motive for committing the crime does not preclude
conviction where there are reliable witnesses who fully and satisfactorily identified the petitioner as the perpetrator of
the felony, such as in this case.

There is no absolute uniformity


nor a fixed standard form of human
behavior

The petitioner imputes error to the CA in giving credence to the testimonies of Malana and Cuntapay on the claim that
these are riddled not only by inconsistencies and contradictions, but also by improbabilities and illogical claims. She
laboriously pointed out the numerous improbabilities that, taken as a whole, allegedly cast serious doubt on their
reliability and credibility.

She alleged, among others: (1) that it was abnormal and contrary to the ways of the farmers in the rural areas for
Cuntapay to go home from his corral at about 9:00 p.m., while everybody else goes home from his farm much earlier,
as working late in the farm (that is, before and after sunset) is taboo to farming; (2) that the act of the petitioner of
putting down her gun in order to pull the victim away does not make any sense because a criminal would not simply
part with his weapon in this manner; (3) that it is highly incredible that Malana, who accompanied Mallo, was left
unharmed and was allowed to escape if indeed he was just beside the victim; (4) that it is unbelievable that when
Malana heard the cocking of guns and the opening of the door, he did not become scared at all; (5) that Malana and
Cuntapay did not immediately report the incident to the authorities; (6) that it was highly improbable for Malana to turn
his head while running; and (7) that it was unusual that Cuntapay did not run away when he saw the shooting.

We rule, without descending to particulars and going over each and every one of these claims, that without more and
stronger indicators, we cannot accord them credit. Human nature suggests that people may react differently when
confronted with a given situation. Witnesses to a crime cannot be expected to demonstrate an absolute uniformity and
conformity inaction and reaction. People may act contrary to the accepted norm, react differently and act contrary to the
expectation of mankind. There is no standard human behavioral response when one is confronted with an unusual,
strange, startling or frightful experience.19

We thus hold that the CA was correct in brushing aside the improbabilities alleged by the petitioner who, in her present
plight, can be overcritical in her attempt to seize every detail that can favor her case. Unfortunately, if at all, her claims
refer only to minor and even inconsequential details that do not touch on the core of the crime itself.
Public documents are admissible in
court without further proof of their
due execution and authenticity

A public document is defined in Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court as follows:

SEC. 19. Classes of Documents. – For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are either public or
private.

Public documents are:

(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and
public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country;

(b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and

(c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, or private documents required by law to be entered therein.

All other writings are private. [emphasis and underscore ours]

The chemistry report showing a positive result of the paraffin test is a public document. As a public document, the rule
on authentication does not apply. It is admissible in evidence without further proof of its due execution and genuineness;
the person who made the report need not be presented in court to identify, describe and testify how the report was
conducted. Moreover, documents consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public
officer are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.20

In the present case, notwithstanding the fact that it was Captain Benjamin Rubio who was presented in court to identify
the chemistry report and not the forensic chemist who actually conducted the paraffin test on the petitioner, the report
may still be admitted because the requirement for authentication does not apply to public documents. In other words,
the forensic chemist does not need to be presented as witness to identify and authenticate the chemistry report.
Furthermore, the entries in the chemistry report are prima facie evidence of the facts they state, that is, of the presence
of gunpowder residue on the left hand of Johan and on the right hand of the petitioner. As a matter of fact, the petitioner
herself admitted the presence of gunpowder nitrates on her fingers, albeit ascribing their presence from a match she
allegedly lighted.21 Accordingly, we hold that the chemistry report is admissible as evidence.

On the issue of the normal process versus the actual process conducted during the test raised by the petitioner, suffice
it to say that in the absence of proof to the contrary, it is presumed that the forensic chemist who conducted the report
observed the regular procedure. Stated otherwise, the courts will not presume irregularity or negligence in the
performance of one’s duties unless facts are shown dictating a contrary conclusion. The presumption of regularity in
favor of the forensic chemist compels us to reject the petitioner’s contention that an explanation has to be given on how
the actual process was conducted. Since the petitioner presented no evidence of fabrication or irregularity, we presume
that the standard operating procedure has been observed.

We note at this point that while the positive finding of gunpowder residue does not conclusively show that the petitioner
indeed fired a gun, the finding nevertheless serves to corroborate the prosecution eyewitnesses’ testimony that the
petitioner shot the victim. Furthermore, while it is true that cigarettes, fertilizers, urine or even a match may leave traces
of nitrates, experts confirm that these traces are minimal and may be washed off with tap water, unlike the evidence
nitrates left behind by gunpowder.

Change in the date of the


commission of the crime, where the
disparity is not great, is merely a
formal amendment, thus, no
arraignment is required

The petitioner claims that she was not arraigned on the amended information for which she was convicted. The
petitioner’s argument is founded on the flawed understanding of the rules on amendment and misconception on the
necessity of arraignment in every case. Thus, we do not see any merit in this claim.

Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court permits a formal amendment of a complaint even after the plea but only if it
is made with leave of court and provided that it can be done without causing prejudice to the rights of the accused.
Section 14 provides:
Section 14. Amendment or substitution. A complaint or information may be amended, in form or in substance, without
leave of court, at any time before the accused enters his plea. After the plea and during the trial, a formal amendment
may only be made with leave of court and when it can be done without causing prejudice to the rights of the accused.

However, any amendment before plea, which downgrades the nature of the offense charged in or excludes any
accused from the complaint or information, can be made only upon motion by the prosecutor, with notice to the
offended party and with leave of court. The court shall state its reasons in resolving the motion and copies of its order
shall be furnished all parties, especially the offended party.

If it appears at any time before judgment that a mistake has been made in charging the proper offense, the court shall
dismiss the original complaint or information upon the filing of a new one charging the proper offense in accordance
with section 19, Rule 119, provided the accused would not be placed in double jeopardy. The court may require the
witnesses to give bail for their appearance at the trial. [emphasis and underscore ours]

A mere change in the date of the commission of the crime, if the disparity of time is not great, is more formal than
substantial. Such an amendment would not prejudice the rights of the accused since the proposed amendment would
not alter the nature of the offense.

The test as to when the rights of an accused are prejudiced by the amendment of a complaint or information is when a
defense under the complaint or information, as it originally stood, would no longer be available after the amendment is
made, when any evidence the accused might have would no longer be available after the amendment is made, and
when any evidence the accused might have would be inapplicable to the complaint or information, as amended. 22

In People, et al. v. Borromeo, et al.,23 we ruled that the change of the date of the commission of the crime from June 24,
1981 to August 28, 1981 is a formal amendment and would not prejudice the rights of the accused because the nature
of the offense of grave coercion would not be altered. In that case, the difference in the date was only about two months
and five days, which difference, we ruled, would neither cause substantial prejudice nor cause surprise on the part of
the accused.

It is not even necessary to state in the complaint or information the precise time at which the offense was committed
except when time is a material ingredient of the offense.24 The act may be alleged to have been committed at any time
as near as to the actual date at which date the offense was committed, as the information will permit. Under the
circumstances, the precise time is not an essential ingredient of the crime of homicide.

Having established that a change of date of the commission of a crime is a formal amendment, we proceed to the next
question of whether an arraignment is necessary.

Arraignment is indispensable in bringing the accused to court and in notifying him of the nature and cause of the
accusations against him. The importance of arraignment is based on the constitutional right of the accused to be
informed.25 Procedural due process requires that the accused be arraigned so that he may be informed of the reason
for his indictment, the specific charges he is bound to face, and the corresponding penalty that could be possibly meted
against him. It is at this stage that the accused, for the first time, is given the opportunity to know the precise charge
that confronts him. It is only imperative that he is thus made fully aware of the possible loss of freedom, even of his life,
depending on the nature of the imputed crime.26

The need for arraignment is equally imperative in an amended information or complaint. This however, we hastily clarify,
pertains only to substantial amendments and not to formal amendments that, by their very nature, do not charge an
offense different from that charged in the original complaint or information; do not alter the theory of the prosecution; do
not cause any surprise and affect the line of defense; and do not adversely affect the substantial rights of the accused,
such as an amendment in the date of the commission of the offense.

We further stress that an amendment done after the plea and during trial, in accordance with the rules, does not call for
a second plea since the amendment is only as to form. The purpose of an arraignment, that is, to inform the accused of
the nature and cause of the accusation against him, has already been attained when the accused was arraigned the
first time. The subsequent amendment could not have conceivably come as a surprise to the accused simply because
the amendment did not charge a new offense nor alter the theory of the prosecution.

Applying these rules and principles to the prevailing case, the records of the case evidently show that the amendment
in the complaint was from July 19, 1988 to June 19, 1988, or a difference of only one month. It is clear that consistent
with the rule on amendments and the jurisprudence cited above, the change in the date of the commission of the crime
of homicide is a formal amendment - it does not change the nature of the crime, does not affect the essence of the
offense nor deprive the accused of an opportunity to meet the new averment, and is not prejudicial to the accused.
Further, the defense under the complaint is still available after the amendment, as this was, in fact, the same line of
defenses used by the petitioner. This is also true with respect to the pieces of evidence presented by the petitioner. The
effected amendment was of this nature and did not need a second plea.

To sum up, we are satisfied after a review of the records of the case that the prosecution has proven the guilt of the
petitioner beyond reasonable doubt. The constitutional presumption of innocence has been successfully overcome.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision dated April 28, 2006, convicting the petitioner of the crime
of homicide, is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner Leticia I. Kummer.

SO ORDERED.

4. People vs Elpedes, January 31, 2001


EN BANC

[G.R. Nos. 137106-07. January 31, 2001]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JOSE ELPEDES y SUNAS, accused-appellant.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Rape is condemnable. It becomes twice reprehensible if committed against ones flesh and blood. [1] The
despicability of incestuous rape which figuratively scrapes the bottom of the barrel of moral depravity[2] is depicted in all
its sordidness in the instant case brought to this Court for automatic review.
On the basis of two (2) sworn criminal complaints executed by the offended party, accused Jose Elpedes y Sunas
was charged with the crime of Rape in two (2) Informations.
The Information in Criminal Case No. Ir-4688[3] alleges

That on or about the 11th day of February 1997, at Brgy. Bacolod, Municipality of Bato, Province of Camarines Sur,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there, wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously and by means of force and intimidation have carnal knowledge with his own daughter ALMA
S. ELPEDES, a minor against her will and consent, to the damage and prejudice of the offended party.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

On the other hand, the Information in Criminal Case No. Ir-4689[4] avers -

That sometime in the year 1991, at Barangay Bacolod, Municipality of Bato, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously and by means of force and intimidation have carnal knowledge with his own daughter ALMA S.
ELPEDES, a 9 year old girl, against her will and consent, to the damage and prejudice of the offended party.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.

Upon arraignment, accused entered a plea of Not guilty. [5] The cases, which were consolidated, thereafter
proceeded to joint trial.
After trial, the court a quo rendered judgment finding accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of one count of rape,
while acquitting him of the other charge, thus:

Finally, this Court is convinced in Crim. Case No. Ir-4688 involving the incident on February 11, 1997, the evidence of
the prosecution has clearly and sufficiently established the factual and legal basis for a finding of guilt beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged, accordingly this Court in the performance of its sworn duty has no choice but to
impose upon the accused Jose Elpedes the mandatory supreme penalty of death pursuant to Art. 335 of the Revised
Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659.
However, in Criminal Case No. Ir-4689 which allegedly happened in 1991, the evidence not being convincing as it is
not supported by a clear and substantial evidence except for the claim of Alma who was only 9 nine years old when the
rape was committed by her father and as heretofore stated, this Court entertains doubt on the culpability of the accused,
and consequently he is acquitted of the crime charged in the information.

SO ORDERED.

Pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code and Rule 122, Section 10 of the Rules of Court, the case was
elevated to this Court on automatic review. Accused-appellant assails his conviction on the grounds that:
I

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIME OF
RAPE ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED ON FEBRUARY 11, 1997 (No. Ir-4688) DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE
COMPLAINING WITNESS CATEGORICALLY TESTIFIED DURING THE TRIAL THAT SHE WAS SEXUALLY
VIOLATED ON AUGUST 11, 1997.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING DUE WEIGHT TO TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION
WITNESSES DESPITE APPARENT INCONSISTENCIES THEREIN.

III

ASSUMING THAT THERE WAS NO DISCREPANCY OF THE MATERIAL DATES, THE LOWER COURT
LIKEWISE ERRED IN IMPOSING THE PENALTY OF DEATH DESPITE THE FAILURE TO SPECIFICALLY
ALLEGE IN THE INFORMATION THAT THE VICTIM WAS UNDER 18 AT THE TIME OF THE COMMISSION OF
THE RAPE.

The versions of the incidents of both Prosecution and Defense, as culled from their respective evidence, was
summarized thus by the trial court:

Alma S. Elpedes, testified in substance, that she is 15 years old as she was born on October 12, 1982 [6] as shown in
the Certificate of Live Birth issued by the Municipal Civil Registrar of Bato, Camarines Sur. [7] She signed the complaint
now marked as Exhibit A-Crim Case No. Ir-4688 and Exhibit A-Crim. Case No. Ir-4689. Her father is Jose Elpedes, the
accused in the 2 above-entitled cases.[8]

In the year 1991 (the month she could not recall) she was only 9 years old when she was raped by her father, Jose
Elpedes. She was then a grade II pupil. She recalled that she was then in their house in Bacolod, Bato, Camarines Sur
when she was raped by her father. She did not go to school that day because she was told by her father to watch over
her younger brother. Aside from her father, together with her in the house were her younger brothers and grandmother
who was old and already blind.[9] The rape was committed when her father removed her shorts and panty and she was
forced to lie down and he inserted his penis in her vagina. At the time she was raped, her mother was also in the house
doing the laundry.[10]

On February 11, 1997, she was raped again in the house when she was already 14 years old. [11] At the time of the rape
her mother was in Manila. This rape incident was committed when her father undressed her, strangled and boxed
her.[12] As a result of the rape on February 11, 1997 she got pregnant. When she told her mother of the pregnancy and
that it was her father who impregnated her she would not believe [her] but instead even beat her until her body became
swollen.[13] As she was already pregnant and could no longer go to school because in her condition she could hardly
walk and her stomach was painful she was brought to Barangay Tapayas, Balatan, Camarines Sur by her mother to the
house of her uncle, Orlando Santor[14] where she gave birth to a child on October 12, 1997. The child was, however,
dead when it was delivered. She was then brought by her uncle to the Center for Girls in Sorsogon under the care of
the DSWD.

On cross-examination, she testified that the rape incident on February 11, 1997 happened at nighttime while the first
rape in 1991 was done in the daytime. On February 11, 1997 when she was raped by her father she was sleeping in
one of the 4 rooms in the house together with her sister Jocelyn. When she was being raped she tried to rouse and tell
her sister, she did not mind but just pretended to sleep. Although inside her room there was no light but outside the
room was a light that enabled her to recognize her father who was then in short pants without [his] shirt on. While her
father was raping her she could not resist him because he was strong and she was boxed and strangled causing her to
lose consciousness. When she regained consciousness she saw her father sitting outside at the balcony. When her
brothers woke up she did not tell them of what her father did to her because her father threatened to kill her. At that
time he made the threat he was then poking a nipper at her back. Despite that she was already showing signs of
pregnancy by vomiting and her stomach was getting bigger, her mother did not have her examined by a doctor.[15]

xxxxxxxxx

The accused testifying in his own behalf denied the charges against him. He claimed that when he was so insistent in
asking Alma who impregnated her and she refused to reveal the one responsible, he beat her and that was the reason
Alma ran away from home. In beating her on the buttocks he only used his bare hands.[16] Alma ran away from home
and went to her uncles house in Tapayas, Balatan, Camarines Sur. He claimed that his house in Bacolod, Bato
Camarines Sur is big measuring 10 x 10 meters with 4 rooms. He testified that Alma slept with her sister Jocelyn, and
brothers Michael, Junior and Vicente. He also said that he seldom slept in his house as he went out fishing and spent
the night at the lakeshore.

On the evening of February 11, 1997, he was at home. The room where he and his children slept was always lighted
with one 40-watt fluorescent lamp because his children were still small.[17] He knew that Alma had a miscarriage on
October 12, 1997 because her cousin went to the house. Before October 9, 1997 he did not know that Alma was
pregnant because she was going to school and he seldom saw her as he was always out of the house. [18]

In support of his cause, accused-appellant first insists that he can not be convicted of rape committed on February
11, 1997 because the victim testified that she was raped on August 11, 1997. He points out that the victim never
testified that she was raped on February 11, 1997, as alleged in the information in Criminal Case No. Ir-4688, and
claims that he can not be convicted as charged when the evidence shows that rape was committed on a date other
than that indicated in the information.
The argument is neither novel nor persuasive.
The remedy against an indictment that fails to allege the time of commission of the offense with sufficient
definiteness is a motion for bill of particulars.[19] The record reveals that accused-appellant did not ask for a bill of
particulars in accordance with Rule 116, Section 10 of the Rules of Court,[20] which provides:

SEC. 10. Bill of particulars. Accused may, at or before arraignment, move for a bill of particulars to enable him properly
to plead and to prepare for trial. The motion shall specify the alleged defects and details desired.

The failure to move for specifications or the quashal of the information on any of the grounds provided for in the
Rules of Court deprives accused of the right to object to evidence which could be lawfully introduced and admitted
under an information of more or less general terms but which sufficiently charges the accused with a definite crime. [21] It
is too late in the day for accused-appellant to raise this issue now because objections as to matters of form or
substance in the information can not be made for the first time on appeal. [22] Besides, the exact date of the commission
of the crime is not an essential element of the crime.[23] In People v. Gianan,[24] the Court held:

It is settled that the time of the commission of rape is not an element thereof, as this crime is defined in Art. 335 of the
Revised Penal Code. The gravamen of the crime is the fact of carnal knowledge under any of the circumstances
enumerated therein, i.e. (1) by using force or intimidation; (2) when the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise
unconscious; and (3) when the woman is under twelve years of age or is demented. In accordance with Rule 110,
Section 11. As long as it alleges that the offense was committed at any time as near to the actual date at which the
offense was committed, an information is sufficient. Thus, in People v. Bugayong,[25] it was held when the time given in
the (information) is not the essence of the offense, the time need not be proven as alleged and that the complaint will
be sustained if the proof shows that the offense was committed at any time within the period of the statute of limitations
and before the commencement of the action. (Italics provided)

Indeed, under Rule 110, Section 6 of the Rules of Court, the information need only state the approximate time of
the commission of the offense. Section 11 thereof provides:

SEC. 11. Time of the commission of the offense.- It is not necessary to state in the complaint or information the precise
time at which the offense was committed except when time is a material ingredient of the offense, but the act may be
alleged to have been committed at any time as near to the actual date at which the offense was committed as the
information or complaint will permit. (Italics provided)

Accused-appellant next seeks to impugn the credibility of the victim by pointing out inconsistencies in her
testimony with regard to the age and gender of the stillborn fetus.
These inconsistencies adverted to by accused-appellant do not detract from the stark fact that the victim was
raped.
When a victim of rape says that she has been defiled, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has
been inflicted on her and so long as her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on the
basis thereof.[26] Guided by this dictum, the Court has meticulously scrutinized the testimony of complaining witness
Alma S. Elpedes and ultimately reached the conclusion that the offense charged did occur. Almas testimony on the act
of rape perpetrated against her by accused-appellant is clear and could have only been narrated by a victim subjected
to such a sexual assault.
Under rigorous cross-examination, private complainant remained steadfast and never wavered in her assertion
that accused-appellant forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. [27] On review, the Court finds that her testimony
bears the hallmarks of truth. It is consistent in material points. The rule is that when a rape victims testimony is
straightforward and candid, unshaken by rigid cross-examination and unflawed by inconsistencies or contradictions in
its material points, the same must be given full faith and credit. [28]
Accused merely raised denial as his defense. Such a defense is unavailing given the facts prevailing herein. The
Court has consistently held that for alibi or denial to prosper, it must be proven that during the commission of the crime,
the accused was in another place and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis. Alibi and
denial are inherently weak defenses and unless supported by clear and convincing evidence, the same can not prevail
over the positive declarations of the victim who, in a simple and straightforward manner, convincingly identified the
accused-appellant as the defiler of her chastity. When assayed against the testimony of the private complainant who
testified on affirmative matters[29] such a hackneyed defense is reduced into a futile and pathetic attempt at
exculpation. Denial is an inherently weak defense which becomes even weaker in the face of the positive identification
by the victim of the accused-appellant as the violator of her honor.[30]
The defense alleges that someone else and not the accused was the defiler of the victims virtue and that she was
forced by the police to point to him as the perpetrator of such a despicable crime. This contention, however, simply
borders on the preposterous and is too unnatural to deserve faith and credence. Be that as it may, these claims pale
into insignificance vis--vis the complainants vehement disclaimer to the contrary. [31] The gravity of filing a case for
incestuous rape is of such a nature that a daughters accusation must be taken seriously. It simply goes against the
grain of human experience for a girl to fabricate a story which would drag herself as well as her family to a lifetime of
dishonor, unless that is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor. More so, where her charges could
mean the execution of her own father, as in this case.
In other words, the positive assertions of the victim that he raped her is entitled to greater weight.[32] While denial
and alibi are legitimate defenses in rape cases, bare assertions to this effect can not overcome the categorical
testimony of the victim.[33] Her testimony never wavered even after it had been explained to her that her father could be
meted the death penalty if found guilty.[34] It certainly would take a most senseless kind of depravity for a young
daughter to concoct a story of rape which would consign her own father to the supreme penalty of death if the same
were not the truth.[35] Furthermore, no young girl of decent repute would allow the examination of her private parts or
subject herself to the shame, embarassment and humiliation of a public trial, if she has not in fact been raped. [36]
A word must, however, be made with regard to the other incidents of rape mentioned by private complainant
during the course of her testimony. Each and every charge of rape is a distinct and separate crime so that each of the
rapes charged should be proven beyond reasonable doubt.[37] Thus, private complainants bare statements that she
was raped on several other occasions by the accused-appellant is clearly inadequate and grossly insufficient to
establish guilt of the accused-appellant insofar as the other acts of rape are concerned. In People v. Garcia,[38] the
Court pointed out that

x x x the indefinite testimonial evidence that complainant was raped every week is decidedly inadequate and grossly
insufficient to establish the guilt of appellant therefor with the required quantum of evidence. So much of such indefinite
imputations of rape, which are uncorroborated by any other evidence fall within this category.

At any rate, the Court finds no reason to reverse the ruling of the trial court. The act of rape is rendered all the
more heinous and reprehensible in this case inasmuch as the victim is merely a young lass of fifteen while her defiler is
her father.
Nevertheless, while accused-appellants guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt, the Court finds the imposition
of the death penalty against him unwarranted. The Court has consistently declared that the circumstances under the
amendatory provisions of R.A. No. 7659, Section 11, the attendance of which would mandate the imposition of the
single indivisible penalty of death, are in the nature of qualifying circumstances. As such, they should be alleged in the
information and proved at the trial. Addressing the issue on the propriety of the punishment imposed, the trial court
meted out the death penalty on accused-appellant pursuant to Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by
R.A. No. 7659, whose pertinent portions state that:

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the following attendant
circumstances:

1. When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian,
relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common law spouse of the parent of the victim. x
x x.
The trial court imposed the penalty of death after taking into consideration the age of Alma who was then fourteen
(14) years old[39] and the fact that accused-appellant is her father. A reading of the accusatory portion of the information,
however, reveals that while the qualifying circumstance of relationship has been alleged therein, the averment on
private complainants minority has not been accurately pleaded in the indictment. The Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, now specifically require both qualifying and aggravating
circumstances to be alleged in the information,[40] viz:

SEC. 8. Designation of the offense. The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given by the
statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances. If
there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it.

SEC. 9. Cause of the accusation. The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the qualifying
and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the language
used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is being
charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment.

Defects in the crafting of informations especially in indictments for Qualified Rape prompted this Court to exhort
public prosecutors to be more circumspect in the drafting thereof. Thus, in People v. Nunez:[41]

Taking into account the growing number of cases where qualified rape under Section 11 of R.A. 7659, although proven
during trial could still not be properly penalized because of defects in the Information, We urge the prosecuting fiscals
who are charged with the responsibility of preparing Informations to state with particularity the attendant
circumstances provided for under Section 11 of R.A. 7659. More specifically, in qualified rape, both the fact of minority
of the victim and the actual relationship between the parties, as worded in R.A. 7659, must be alleged in the
Information. Otherwise, We shall continue to fail both the law and the victim whom the law have sought to
protect. (Emphasis and italics provided)

Given the circumstances of this case, the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua. The failure to allege accurately
the minority of the victim in the information bars accused-appellants conviction for rape in its qualified form which is
punishable by death.[42] It must be borne in mind that the requirement for complete allegations on the particulars of the
indictment is based on the right of the accused to be fully informed of the nature of the charges against him so that he
may adequately prepare for his defense pursuant to the due process clause of the Constitution. [43]
The Court notes that the court a quo neither awarded any indemnity ex delicto, which current jurisprudence has
fixed at P50,000.00,[44] nor moral damages on account of the rape. It must be stressed in this regard that civil indemnity
is separate and distinct from the award of moral damages which is automatically granted in rape cases. [45] Pursuant to
controlling case law, the award of P50,000.00 ex delicto is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape.[46] Moral
damages are additionally awarded without need of pleading or proof of the basis thereof. [47] This is because it is
recognized that the victims injury is concomitant with and necessarily resulting from the odiousness of the crime to
warrant per se the award of moral damages.[48]
The anguish and the pain a victim had to endure are evident. [49] The Court need not belabor the fact that the
offended party in a rape case is victim many times over. In our culture which puts a premium on the virtue of purity or
virginity, rape stigmatizes the victim more than the perpetrator. [50] Considering that the offender is the father of the
victim, accused-appellant should likewise pay the victim exemplary damages,[51] which pursuant to controlling case law,
has been fixed at P25,000.00.[52]
WHEREFORE, the judgment of the Regional Trial Court, finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of rape, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that he is sentenced to suffer the penalty
of Reclusion Perpetua and ordered to pay the offended party P50,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto; P50,000.00 as moral
damages and 25,000.00 as exemplary damages.
SO ORDERED.

5. Enrile vs People, August 11, 2015

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-0238”1 filed by petitioner Juan Ponce
Enrile (Enrile) challenging the July 11, 2014 resolutions 2 of the Sandiganbayan.

I.

THE ANTECEDENTS

On June 5, 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman filed an Information 3 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 Court’s jurisdiction,
above-named accused JUAN PONCE ENRILE, then a Philippine Senator, JESSICA LUCILA G.
REYES, then Chief of Staff of Senator Enrile’s 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

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 ENRILE’S Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration of ENRILE’S
(a)
endorsement, directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies, of NAPOLES’
non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or target implementors of ENRILE’S
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;

by taking undue advantage, on several occasions, of their official positions, authority, relationships,
(b) 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 Enrile’s 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
Sandiganbayan’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s order and his motion for
bill of particulars was called for hearing. Atty. Estelito Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza), Enrile’s 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 Court’s denial of Enrile’s motion for bill of
particulars essentially on the following grounds:

the details that Enrile desires are “substantial reiterations” of the arguments he raised in his
(1)
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
Sandiganbayan’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s denial of the motion for reconsideration. 10redarclaw

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

In today’s consideration of accused Juan Ponce Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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, then a


Philippine Senator, JESSICA LUCILA G. REYES,
then Chief of Staff of Senator Enrile’s Office, both
public officers, committing the offense in relation to
their respective offices, conspiring with one another
a. Who among the accused acquired the alleged “ill-gotten
and with JANET LIM NAPOLES, RONALD JOHN
wealth amounting to at least ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO
LIM, and JOHN RAYMUND DE ASIS, did then and
MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND
there willfully, unlawfully, and criminally amass,
FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (Php172,834,500.00)”? One of
accumulate, and/or acquire ill-gotten wealth
them, two of them or all of them? Kindly specify.
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 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 ENRILE’S Priority a. What was “repeatedly” received? If sums of money, the
Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in particular amount. If on several occasions and in different
consideration of ENRILE’S endorsement, directly or amounts, specify the amount on each occasion and the
through REYES, to the appropriate government corresponding date of receipt.
agencies, of NAPOLES’ non-government
organizations which became the recipients and/or
target implementers of ENRILE’S 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 ENRILE’s, to be found? In what amount for each
year is ENRILE’s 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 ENRILE’s PDAF
projects?” NameNapoles non-government organizations which
became the recipients and/or target implementers of ENRILE’s
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 Enrile’s PDAF
projects in the years 2004-2010 were ghosts or spurious
projects?

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


several occasions, of his official positions, authority,
x x x by taking undue advantage, on several relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly enrich
occasions of their official positions, authority, himself at the expense and to the damage and prejudice, of
relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines. Was
enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage this because he received any money from the
and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the Republic government? From whom and for what reason did he receive
of the Philippines. 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 Sandiganbayan’s July 11, 2014 resolution and his arraignment.”

A. The People’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s denial of Enrile’s 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. Enrile’s 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 accused’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s 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 People’s 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 COURT’S 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 person’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s 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
government’s 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 accused’s objection, the Court declared that
the prosecution’s 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
People’s 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 People’s court to order the prosecution to “make more specific [the]
phrase ‘and other similar equipment,’” which request the People’s Court granted. The People of the Philippines filed a
petition for certiorari, but the Court dismissed this petition.

In upholding the order of the People’s 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 Procedure 62and 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 court 67 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 granting 69 and order the government
to file a bill of particulars elaborating on the charges. Doubts should be resolved in favor of granting the bill 70 to give full
meaning to the accused’s 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 Carpio’s 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 Baños 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 x 95
D.1.b. The Requested Details of Enrile’s 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
ENRILE’s, to be found? In what amount for each year is ENRILE’s Priority Development Assistance
Fund?

and

x x x what COA audits or field investigations were conducted which validated the findings that each of
Enrile’s PDAF projects in the years 2004-2010 were ghosts or spurious projects?
These matters will simply establish and support the ultimate fact that Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 prosecution’s 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
defense’s right to cross-examine them.96Making these “others” known would in fact be equivalent to the prosecution’s
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 ENRILE’S Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration of
ENRILE’S endorsement, directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies, of
NAPOLES’ non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or target implementers of
ENRILE’S 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, Enrile’s preparation for trial is obviously hampered. This defect is not
cured by mere reference to the prosecution’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s PDAF;

(2) Enrile’s endorsement of Napoles’ NGOs to the government agencies to implement these projects; and

(3) Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s PDAF. Note that without the project identification, no justification existed to release
Enrile’s 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 Information’s 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-à-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 Sandiganbayan’s 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 Court’s 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 Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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 (Enrile’s) 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 Sandiganbayan’s denial of the petitioner’s 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 Carpio’s reference to the voluminous 144-page Ombudsman’s 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 person’s 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 Carpio’s 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 factomean that the present Information for plunder filed against Enrile is not vague and
ambiguous.

Sandiganbayan Ground #2:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

That Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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
Sandiganbayan’s 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 Sandiganbayan’s resolutions dated
July 11, 2014, which denied Enrile’s 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 Enrile’s 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

6. Revilla vs Sandiganbayan, July 24, 2018

Check PDF

7. Heirs of Garcia vs Municipality of Iba, Zambales, July 22, 2015

8. Jimenez vs People, September 17, 2014

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 209195 September 17, 2014

MANUEL J. JIMENEZ, JR., Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

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

G.R. No. 209215

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
MANUEL J. JIMENEZ, JR., Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before the Court are two consolidated petitions for review on certiorari filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
assailing the amended decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 121167 entitled Manuel J. Jimenez,
Jr. v. Hon. Zaldy B. Docena et al.

The CA did not find any grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court (RTC Branch 170, Malabon)
Judge Zaldy B. Docena (Judge Docena)in issuing the order which granted the People of the Philippines’ motion to
discharge Manuel A. Montero (Montero)as a state witness in Criminal Case No. 39225-MN.

The G.R. No. 209195petition was filed by Manuel J. Jimenez, Jr. (Jimenez). He prays in this petition for the reversal of
the CA’s amended decision insofar as it ruled that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in issuing the
assailed order.

The People likewise filed its petition, docketed as G.R. No. 209215. This petition seeks to reverse the amended
decision of the CA insofar as it ordered the re-raffle of the criminal case to another RTC judge for trial on the merits.
The Factual Antecedents

On May 18, 2009 and June 11, 2009, Montero (a former employee of the BSJ Company owned by the Jimenezes)
executed sworn statements confessing his participation in the killing ofRuby Rose Barrameda (Ruby Rose),and naming
petitioner Jimenez, Lope Jimenez (Lope, the petitioner Jimenez’s younger brother),Lennard A. Descalso (Lennard)
alias "Spyke," Robert Ponce (Robert) alias "Obet," and Eric Fernandez (Eric), as his coconspirators. 2

The statements of Montero which provided the details on where the alleged steel casing containing the body of Ruby
Rose was dumped, led to the recovery of a cadaver, encased ina drum and steel casing, near or practically at the place
that Montero pointed to.3

On August 20, 2009, the People, through the state prosecutors, filed an Information before the RTC, charging Jimenez,
Lope, Lennard, Robert, Eric and Montero of murder for the killing of Ruby Rose. 4

Montero thereafter filed a motion for his discharge entitled "Motion for the Discharge of the Witness as Accused
Pursuant to the Witness Protection Program" pursuant to Republic Act No. 6981. The People also filed a motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness for the prosecution. Jimenez opposed both motions. 5

The RTC’s ruling

On March 19, 2010, the RTC’s Acting Presiding Judge Hector B. Almeyda (Judge Almeyda)denied the motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness.6

Judge Almeyda ruled that the prosecution failed to comply with the requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for the discharge of an accused as a state witness; it failed to clearly show that
Montero was not the most guilty or, at best, the least guilty among the accused. The judge further ruled that Montero’s
statements were not corroborated by the other evidence on record. The prosecution, too, failed to present evidence to
sustain the possibility of conviction against Jimenez.7

Montero and the People filed separate motions for reconsideration.

The July 30, 2010 order

On July 30, 2010, Judge Docena, the newly-appointed regular judge, reconsidered and reversed Judge Almeyda’s
order and ruled that the prosecution had presented clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence showing compliance
with the requisites of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.

According to Judge Docena, the crime would have remained undiscovered and unsolved had it not been for Montero’s
extrajudicial confession that narrated in detail the manner of the abductionand subsequent murderof Ruby Rose. As the
crime was committed in secret, only one of the co-conspirators, such asMontero, could give direct evidence identifying
the other coconspirators.

Judge Docena further ruled that Montero is qualified tobe discharged as a state witness as he does not appear to be
the most guilty although he is a principal by direct participation. The principals by inducement are more guilty because,
without their orders, the crime would not have been committed. Finally, Montero has not been convicted of any crime
involving moral turpitude. Jimenez moved for the reconsideration of Judge Docena’s ruling. 8

The December 29, 2010 order

During the pendency of the motion for reconsideration, Jimenez filed a motion for inhibition, praying that Judge Docena
inhibit himself from hearing the case on the ground of bias and prejudice. Judge Docena denied the motion in his order
of December 29, 2010.9

The June 29, 2011 order

On June 29, 2011, Judge Docena issued an omnibus order: 1) denying the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the
July 30, 2010 order; 2) denying the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the December 29, 2010 order; and 3)
granting Manuel Jimenez III’s alternative motion to suspend the proceedings, as his inclusion in the Information was
still pending final determination by the Office of the President.

Jimenez responded to these adverse rulings by filing with the CA a petition for certiorariunder Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court. The petition sought the annulment of Judge Docena’s orders dated July 30, 2010, December 29, 2010, and June
29, 2011. The petition also prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction
that the CA both granted in its resolutions of December 8, 2011 and February 6, 2012, respectively. 10

The CA’s Decision

On May 22, 2012, the CA’s then Tenth Division, through the ponencia of Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio
(concurred in by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla) rendered a
decision granting Jimenez’ petition.11

However, on motion for reconsideration filed by the People, the CA reversedits earlier ruling and issued anAmended
Decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes.

The CA’s Amended Decision

The CA held that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in ordering Montero’s discharge to become a state
witness because the prosecution had complied with the requirements of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure.12

First, Judge Docena acted in accordance with settled jurisprudence when he ruled that there was absolute necessity
for the testimony of Montero as no other direct evidence other than his testimony was available. Additionally, since the
determination of the requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure is highly
factual in nature, Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of discretion in largely relying on the recommendation of
the prosecution to discharge Montero as a state witness.13

Furthermore, the CA agreed with Judge Docena that Montero is not the most guilty among the accused because the
principals by inducement are more guilty than the principals by direct participation. To the CA, this finding is highly
factual in nature and it would not interfere with the trial court’s exercise of discretion on factual issues in the absence of
showing that the court had acted with grave abuse of discretion. 14

On Judge Docena’s ‘no inhibition’ order, the CA held that while the case does not call for mandatory inhibition, it should
still be raffled to another sala for trial on the meritsto avoid any claim of bias and prejudice. 15

The CA likewise dismissed the motion for the issuance of a show cause order which Jimenez filed against Judge
Docena.16

Both Jimenez and the People moved for partial reconsideration of the CA’s order but these motions were all
denied.17 The denials prompted both parties to file with this Court the present consolidated petitions for review on
certiorari.

The Present Petitions

I. G.R. No. 209195 (The Jimenez Petition)

Jimenez raises the following errors:

First, there is no necessity to discharge Montero as a state witness because: 1) the voluntary sworn extrajudicial
confessions of Montero are all in the possession of the prosecution which they could readily present in court without
discharging Montero; and 2) there was unjust favoritism in the discharge of Montero because all the other conspirators
are equally knowledgeable of the crime.18

Second, contrary to the CA’s ruling, the judge, and not the prosecution, has the ultimate discretion in ensuring that the
requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 are complied with.19 Third, the cases the CA cited are factually different from
the present case. Chua v. CA20 should not apply as it deals with two accused, one of whom was ordered
discharged.21 Fourth, Montero’s testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its material points as the
prosecution’s own evidence contradicts his declarations.

These inconsistencies include: Montero’s statement that a "busal" was placed inside the mouth of Ruby Rose; this
statement is belied by the other prosecution witness; Montero also never mentioned the presence of a packaging tape
wrapped around the head and neck of the recovered cadaver; in Montero’s sinumpaang salaysay, he stated that Ruby
Rose was killed by strangulation using a "lubid" but the death certificate stated asphyxia by suffocation and not by
strangulation; the identification of the cadaver as Ruby Rose is likewise questionable as there are differences in the
height, and the dental and odontological reports of Ruby Rose and the recovered cadaver.
Jimenez argued that these inconsistencies would require a thorough scrutiny; hence, the immediate discharge of
Montero as a state witness is suspicious.22

Fifth, Montero appears to be the mostguilty. He was the architect who designed and actively participated in all phases
of the alleged crime.23

Jimenez further argued that there is no authority supporting the ruling that the principals by inducement are more guilty
than the principal by direct participation. On the contrary, the Revised Penal Code imputes on the principal by direct
participation the heavier guilt; without the latter’s execution of the crime, the principal byinducement cannot be made
liable. Even if the principal by inducement is acquitted, the principal by direct participation can still be held liable and not
vice-versa.24

Sixth, the discharge of Montero was irregular because Judge Docena failed to conduct a prior hearing. 25

Finally, Montero already executed a notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony which was submitted to the CA. 26

Comment of the People

The People argued that Jimenez is now estopped from raising the lack of hearing as an issue since he raised this issue
only after Judge Docena granted the motion to discharge and not after Judge Almeyda denied the motion – an action
that was favorable to him.27

It also argued that Jimenez actively participated in the proceedings for Montero’s discharge as the trial court received
evidence for and against the discharge. In this light, Judge Docena’s order granting or denying the motion for discharge
is in order, notwithstanding the lack of actual hearing.28

The People also agreed with the CA’s amended ruling that the requirements for the discharge of anaccused as a state
witness were complied with.29 It added that the availability of the extrajudicial statements in the prosecution’s
possession is not a ground to disqualify an accused from being a state witness. 30

It further maintained that the alleged contradictions between Montero’s statements and other prosecution’s evidence
are better resolved during trial and are irrelevant tothe issues in the present case. 31

For purposes of the present case, the material allegations of Montero on the identity of the victim and the manner of her
killing were substantially corroborated by the presence of the recovered original steel casing, the drum containing a
cadaver, the place where it was found, and the cadaver’s apparel.32

The People observed that Montero had already testified on direct examination on June 28, 2011 and October 25, 2011.
He attested and affirmed his statements in his affidavits dated May 18 and June 11, 2009; he narrated in his statements
the murder of Ruby Rose and Jimenez’ participation. 33

Reply of Jimenez

Jimenez reiterated his allegations in the comment. He added that Montero did not identify or authenticate his sworn
statements in support of the motion for his discharge. 34

According to Jimenez, the notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony of Montero rendered his discharge as a state
witness moot and academic.35

II. G.R. No. 209215(The People’s Petition)

The People, through the Office of the Solicitor General, argue that the CA’s order to re-raffle the case to another sala is
not supported by Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court, either under mandatory or voluntary inhibition.36

To disqualify a judge from hearing a case, bias and prejudice must be proven, in the manner being done in cases of
voluntary inhibition.37

Jurisprudence establishes, too, that affiliation does not necessarily translate to bias. 38 A judge’s non-favorable action
against the defense is not also necessarily indicative of bias and prejudice. 39

Finally, the administrative case filed against Judge Docena is not a ground to disqualify him from hearing the case. 40
Comment of Jimenez

The option for voluntary inhibition does not give judges unlimited discretion to decide whether or not they will desist
from hearing a case. Jimenez enumerated Judge Docena’s acts that allegedly constituted bias and prejudice:

First, Judge Docena granted the motion to discharge even though the legal requirements under Section 17, Rule 119 of
the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure were not factually and legally proven. He also relied on the suggestions and
information of the prosecutors thereby surrendering his duty to ensure that the requirements for a discharge are duly
complied with.

Second, in a previous case where his fraternity brother appeared as counsel, Judge Docena inhibited himself from
hearing the case. Thus, no reason exists for him not to similarly act in the present case where Jimenez is his fraternity
brother and State Prosecutor Villanueva was his classmate.

Third, Judge Docena granted the prosecution’s motion for cancellation of the September 29, 2011 hearing because the
state prosecutor would be attending a legal forum. This was improper since other prosecutors were available and other
prosecution witnesses could be presented. Fourth, Judge Docena has an uncontrolled temper and unexplainable
attitude. In Jimenez’ bail hearing, Judge Docena immediately shouted at Jimenez’ counsel whenhe made a
mistake.41 The Issues

1) Whether or not the CA erred in ruling that Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of discretion in granting the
motion to discharge Montero as a state witness; and

2) Whether or not the CA erred in ordering the re-raffle of Criminal Case No. 39225-MN toanother RTC branch for trial
on the merits.

THE COURT’S RULING:

G.R. No. 209195

We agree with the CA’s ruling that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion when he granted the motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness.

The well-settled rule is that a petition for certiorariagainst a court which has jurisdiction over a case will prosper only
ifgrave abuse of discretion is clear and patent. The burden is on the part of the petitioner to prove not merely reversible
error, but grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the public respondent
issuing the impugned order. Notably, mere abuse of discretion is not enough; the abuse must be grave. Jurisprudence
has defined "grave abuse of discretion" as the capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment so patent and gross as to
amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, as where the power is
exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner because of passion or hostility. 42

We agree with the CA that the prosecution has complied with the requisites under Section 17,Rule 119 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides that:

In the discharge of an accused inorder that he may be a state witness, the following conditions must be present,
namely:

(1) Two or more accused are jointly charged with the commission of an offense;

(2) The motion for discharge isfiled by the prosecution before it rests its case;

(3) The prosecution is required to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a
hearing in support of the discharge;

(4) The accused gives his consent to be a state witness; and

(5) The trial court is satisfied that:

a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested; b) There is no other
directevidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused;

c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points;
d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and,

e) Said accused has not atany time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

No issues have been raised with respect to conditions (1), (2), (4), and 5(e). The parties dispute the compliance with
conditions (3) and 5(a) to (d) as the issues before us. We shall discuss these issues separately below.

Absolute necessity of the testimony of Montero

We see no merit in Jimenez’s allegation that no absolute necessity exists for Montero’s testimony.

Absolute necessity exists for the testimony of an accused sought to be discharged when he or she alone has
knowledge of the crime. In more concrete terms, necessity is not there when the testimony would simply corroborate or
otherwise strengthen the prosecution’s evidence.43 We do not agree with Jimenez that the Court’s pronouncement in
Chua v. CA et al.is inapplicable in the present case simply because more than two accused are involved in the present
case. The requirement of absolute necessity for the testimony of a state witness depends on the circumstances of each
case regardless of the number of the participating conspirators.

In People v. Court of Appeals and Perez et al.,44 the Court ordered the discharge of the accused Roncesvalles, ruling
that his testimony is absolutely necessary to prove conspiracy with his other co-accused. The Court agreed with the
Solicitor General that considering the circumstances of the case and that the other accused could not be compelled to
testify, certain facts necessary for the conviction of the accused would not come to light unless the accused
Roncesvalles was allowed to testify for the State. Specifically, unless accused Roncesvalles was allowed to testify for
the government, there would be no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense charged,
particularly on the role of his co-accused in the preparation and completion of the falsified loan application and its
supporting papers.

Similarly in People v. Court of Appeals and Tan,45 the Court reinstated the ruling of the trial court which ordered the
discharge of accused Ngo Sin from among the five accused. The record justified his discharge as a state witness
considering the absolutenecessity of his testimony to prove that the accused Luciano Tan had planned and financed
the theft.

In the present case, not one ofthe accused-conspirators, except Montero, was willing to testify on the alleged murder of
Ruby Rose and their participation in her killing. Hence, the CA was correct in ruling that Judge Docena acted properly
and in accordance with jurisprudence in ruling that there was absolute necessity for the testimony of Montero. He alone
is available to provide directevidence of the crime.

That the prosecution could use the voluntary statements of Montero without his discharge as a state witness is not an
important and relevant consideration. To the prosecution belongs the control of its case and this Court cannot dictate
on its choice in the discharge of a state witness, save only when the legal requirements have not been complied with.

The prosecution’s right to prosecute gives it "a wide range of discretion — the discretion of whether, what and whom to
charge, the exercise of which depends on a smorgasbord of factors which are best appreciated by prosecutors." Under
Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court is given the power to discharge a state
witness only after it has already acquired jurisdiction over the crime and the accused. 46

Montero’s testimony can be substantially corroborated

We also do not find merit in Jimenez’ argument that Montero’s testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its
material points and is even contradicted by the physical evidence of the crime. As the trial court properly found, the
evidence consisting of the steel casing where the cadaver was found; the drum containing the cadaver which the
prosecution successfully identified (and which even the acting Judge Almeyda believed) to be Ruby Rose; the spot in
the sea that Montero pointed to (where the cadaver was retrieved); the apparel worn by the victim when she was killed
as well as her burned personal effects, all partly corroborate some of the material points in the sworn statements of
Montero.47

With these as bases, Judge Docena’s ruling that Montero’s testimony found substantial corroboration cannot
becharacterized as grave abuse of discretion.

Jimenez points to the discrepancies in Montero’s statements and the physical evidence, such as the absence of
"busal"in the mouth of the retrieved cadaver; his failure to mention that they used packaging tape wrapped around the
head down to the neck of the victim; and his declaration that the victim was killed through strangulation using a rope
(lubid).
However, the corroborated statements of Montero discussed above are far more material than the inconsistencies
pointed outby Jimenez, at least for purposes of the motion to discharge.

The alleged discrepancies in the physical evidence, particularly on the height and dental records of Ruby Rose, are
matters that should properly be dealt with during the trial proper.

We emphasize at this point that to resolve a motion to discharge under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure, the Rules only require that that the testimony ofthe accused sought to be discharged be
substantially corroborated in its material points, not on all points.

This rule is based on jurisprudential line that in resolving a motion to discharge under Section 17, Rule 119, a trial judge
cannot be expected or required, at the start of the trial, to inform himself with absolute certainty of everything that may
develop in the course of the trial with respect to the guilty participation of the accused. If that were practicable or
possible, there would be little need for the formality of a trial.48

Montero is not the most guilty

We also do not agree with Jimenez that the CA erred in finding that Montero is not the most guilty.

By jurisprudence, "most guilty" refers to the highest degree of culpability in terms of participation in the commission of
the offense and does not necessarily mean the severity of the penalty imposed. While all the accused may be given the
same penalty by reason of conspiracy, yet one may be considered to have lesser orthe least guilt taking into account
his degree of participation in the commission of the offense.49

What the rule avoids is the possibility that the most guilty would be set free while his co-accused who are less guilty in
terms of participation would be penalized.50

Before dwelling on the parties’ substantive arguments, we find it necessary to first correct the rulings of the CA that are
not exactly correct.

Contrary to the CA’s findings, a principal by inducement is not automatically the most guilty in a conspiracy. The
decision of the Court in People v. Baharan51 did not involve the resolution of a motion to discharge an accused to
become a state witness. Instead, the pronouncement of the Court related to the culpability of a principal by inducement
whose coinducement act was the determining cause for the commission of the crime.

Thus viewed, Baharan cannot be the basis of a peremptory pronouncement that a principal by inducement is more
guilty than the principal by direct participation.

In Chua v. People,52 which involved a motion to discharge an accused, the Court declared that if one induces another
to commit a crime, the influence is the determining cause of the crime. Without the inducement, the crime would not
have been committed; it is the inducer who sets into motion the execution of the criminal act.

To place the Chua ruling in proper perspective, the Court considered the principal by inducement as the most guilty
based on the specific acts done by the two accused and bearing in mind the elements constitutive of the crime of
falsification of private documents where the element of "damage" arose through the principal by inducement’s
encashment of the falsified check. This led the Court to declare that the principal by inducement is the "most guilty" (or
properly, the more guilty) between the two accused.

Thus, as a rule, for purposes of resolving a motion to discharge an accused as a state witness,what are controlling are
the specific acts of the accused in relation to the crime committed.

We cannot also agree with Jimenez’ argument that a principal by direct participation is more guilty than the principal by
inducement as the Revised Penal Code penalizes the principal by inducement only when the principal by direct
participation has executed the crime.

We note that the severity of the penalty imposed is part of the substantive criminal law which should not be equated
with the procedural rule on the discharge of the particeps criminis. The procedural remedy of the discharge of an
accused is based on other considerations, such as the need for giving immunity to one of several accused in order that
not all shall escape, and the judicial experience that the candid admission of an accused regarding his participation is a
guaranty that he will testify truthfully.53

On the substantive issues of the present case, we affirm the CA ruling that no grave abuse of discretion transpired
when Judge Docena ruled that Montero is not the most guilty.
We draw attention to the requirement that a state witness does not need to be found to be the least guilty; he or she
should not only "appear to be the most guilty."54

From the evidence submitted by the prosecution in support of its motion to discharge Montero, it appears that while
Montero was part of the planning, preparation, and execution stage as most of his co-accused had been, he had no
direct participation inthe actual killing of Ruby Rose. While Lope allegedly assigned to him the execution of the killing,
the records do not indicate that he had active participation in hatching the plan to kill Ruby Rose, which allegedly came
from accused Lope and Jimenez, and in the actual killing of Ruby Rose which was executed by accused
Lennard.55 Montero’s participation was limited to providing the steel box where the drum containing the victim’s body
was placed, welding the steel box to seal the cadaver inside, operating the skip or tug boat, and, together with his
co-accused, dropping the steelbox containing the cadaver into the sea.

At any rate, the discharge of anaccused to be utilized as a state witness because he does not appear to bethe most
guilty is highly factual in nature as it largely depends on the appreciation of who had the most participation in the
commission of the crime. The appellate courts do not interfere in the discretionary judgment ofthe trial court on this
factual issue except when grave abuse ofdiscretion intervenes.56

In light of these considerations, we affirm the ruling of the CA that Judge Docena did not commit grave abuse of
discretion in ruling that Montero is not the most guilty.

The discharge of Montero as a state witness was procedurally sound

We agree with the People that Jimenez is estopped from raising the issue of lack of hearing prior to the discharge of
Montero asa state witness. Jimenez did not raise this issue when Acting Judge Almeyda denied the motion to
discharge. This denial, of course, was favorable toJimenez. If he found no reason to complain then, why should we
entertain his hearingrelated complaint now?

The People even supported its argument that Jimenez actively participated in the proceedings of the motion to
discharge such as his filing of a 20-page opposition to the motion; filing a reply to the People’s comment; submitting his
memorandum of authorities on the qualification of Montero as state witness; and filing a consolidated opposition on the
People’s and Montero’s motion for reconsideration of Judge Almeyda’s order. 57

In these lights, Jimenez cannot impute grave abuse of discretion on Judge Docena for not conducting a hearing prior to
his grant of the motion to discharge. In People v. CA and Pring, 58 the Court ruled that with both litigants able to present
their sides,the lack of actual hearing is not sufficiently fatal to undermine the court's ability to determine whether the
conditions prescribed for the discharge ofan accused as a state witness have been satisfied. Contrary to Jimenez’
argument, the Pringruling is applicable in the present case. In Pring, the sworn statements of the accused sought to be
discharged (Nonilo Arile), together with the prosecution’s other evidence, were already in the possession of the court
and had been challenged by the respondent in his Opposition to Discharge Nonilo Arile and in his Petition for Bail. The
issue in that case was the propriety of the trial court’s resolution of the motion to discharge Nonilo Arile without
conducting a hearing pursuant Section 9, Rule 119 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure (now Section 17, Rule 119
ofthe Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure).

With Jimenez’ active participation in the proceeding for the motion to discharge as outlined above, the ruling of the
Court in Pringshould squarely apply.

Montero’s Notice of Withdrawal of Consent is not material in the resolution of the present case

We find no merit in Jimenez’ argument that Montero’s submission of his notice of withdrawal of consent and testimony
of Manuel dated February 26, 2013 rendered the present case moot, since the Court cannot consider this document in
this petition.

It must be recalled that the present case involves an appellate review of the CA’s decision which found no grave abuse
of discretion on the part of Judge Docena in granting the motion to discharge.

Under the present recourse now before this Court, we cannot rule on the notice of withdrawal and consider it in ruling
on the absence or presence of grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the assailed orders. The present case is not
the proper venue for the determination of the value of the notice.

This conclusion is all the more strengthened by the fact that Montero already testified on direct examination on June 28,
2011 and October 25, 2011. He attested and affirmed his statements in his affidavits dated May 18 and June 11, 2009;
he not only narrated the grisly murder of Ruby Rose, but also revealed Jimenez’ participation in the murder.
With this development, the notice may partake of the nature of a recantation, which is usually taken ex parte and is
considered inferior to the testimony given in open court. It would be a dangerous rule to reject the testimony taken
before a court of justice simply because the witness who gave it later changed his/her mind.59

In sum on this point, the appreciation of the notice of withdrawal properly belongs to the trial court.

Interplay between the judge and prosecutor in the motion to discharge an accused to become a state witness

As a last point, we find it necessary to clarify the roles of the prosecution and the trial court judge in the resolution of a
motion to discharge an accused as a state witness.This need arises from what appears to us to be a haphazard use of
the statement that the trial court judge must rely in large part on the prosecution’s suggestion in the resolution of a
motion to discharge.

In the present case, the CA cited Quarto v. Marcelo60 in ruling that the trial court must rely in large part upon the
suggestions and the information furnished by the prosecuting officer, thus:

A trial judge cannot be expected orrequired to inform himself with absolute certainty at the very outset of the trial as to
everything which may be developed in the course of the trial in regard to the guilty participation of the accused in the
commission of the crime charged in the complaint. If that were practicable or possible there would be little need for the
formality of a trial. He must rely inlarge part upon the suggestions and the information furnished by the prosecuting
officer in coming to his conclusions as to the "necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested";
asto the availability or non-availability of other direct or corroborative evidence; as to which of the accused is "most
guilty," and the like.

We deem it important to place this ruling in its proper context lest we create the wrong impression that the trial court is a
mere "rubber stamp" of the prosecution, in the manner that Jimenez now argues.

In Quarto, we emphasized that it is still the trial court that determines whether the prosecution’s preliminary assessment
of the accused-witness’ qualifications to be a state witness satisfies the procedural norms. This relationship is in reality
a symbiotic one as the trial court, by the very nature of its role in the administration of justice, largely exercises its
prerogative based on the prosecutor’s findings and evaluation.61

Thus, we ruled in People v. Pring62 that in requiring a hearing in support of the discharge, the essential objective of the
law is for the court to receive evidence for or against the discharge, which evidence shall serve as the court’s tangible
and concrete basis – independently of the fiscal's or prosecution's persuasions – in granting or denying the motion for
discharge. We emphasize, in saying this, that actual hearing is not required provided that the parties have both
presented their sides on the merits of the motion.1âwphi1

We likewise do not agree with Jimenez that Quartoshould not apply to the present case, since the principles laid down
in that case similarly operate in the present case, specifically, on issue of the procedural processes required in the
discharge of the accused as a state witness.

G.R. No. 209215

We find the People’s petition meritorious.

We note at the outset that the CA did not provide factual or legal support when it ordered the inhibition ofJudge Docena.
Additionally, we do not find Jimenez’ arguments sufficiently persuasive.

The second paragraph of Section 1 of Rule 137 does not give judges the unlimited discretion to decide whether or not
to desist from hearing a case. The inhibition must be for just and valid causes. The mere imputation of bias or partiality
is likewise not enough ground for their inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis. 63

It is well-established that inhibition is not allowed at every instance that a schoolmate or classmate appears before the
judge as counsel for one of the parties. A judge, too, is not expected to automatically inhibit himself from acting in a
case involving a member of his fraternity, such as Jimenez in the present case.64

In the absence of clear and convincing evidenceto prove the charge of bias and prejudice, a judge’s ruling not to inhibit
oneself should be allowed to stand.65

In attributing bias and prejudice to Judge Docena, Jimenez must prove that the judge acted or conducted himself in a
manner clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice soas to defeat the attributes of the cold neutrality that an impartial
judge must possess.Unjustified assumptions and mere misgivings that the judge acted with prejudice, passion, pride
and pettiness in the performance of his functions cannot overcome the presumption that a judge shall decide on the
merits of a case with an unclouded vision of its facts.66

In the present case, Jimenez’ allegation of bias and prejudice is negated by the CA finding in its amended decision, as
affirmed by this Court, that Judge Docena did not gravely abuse his discretion in granting the motion to discharge. We
support this conclusion as the cancellation of the September 29, 2011 hearing is not clearly indicative of bias and
prejudice.

On the allegation that Judge Docena's uncontrollable temper and unexplainable attitude should be considered as a
factor, we note that the allegations and perceptions of bias from the mere tenor and language of a judge is insufficient
to show prejudgment. Allowing inhibition for these reasons would open the floodgates to abuse. Unless there is
concrete proof that a judge has a personal interest in the proceedings, and that his bias stems from an extra-judicial
source, the Court would uphold the presumption that a magistrate shall impartially decide the merits of a case. 67

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition in G.R. No. 209195 and affirm the CA's amended decision in CA-G.R. SP No.
121167 insofar as it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Docena in granting the People's motion to
discharge Montero as a state witness.

We GRANT the petition in G.R. No. 209215 and modify the CA's amended decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 121167 in
accordance with our ruling that Judge Docena's denial of the motion for inhibition was proper.

SO ORDERED.

9. IBP Pangasinan vs DOJ, July 25, 2017

En Banc

July 25, 2017

G.R. No. 232413

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR ISSUANCE OF WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS WITH PETITION FOR
RELIEF INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES PANGASINAN LEGAL AID and JAY-AR R. SENIN,Petitioners
vs.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND
PENOLOGY, and PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, Respondents

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for the issuance of writ of habeas corpus with a petition for declaratory relief filed by the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines (IBP) Pangasinan Chapter Legal Aid, pursuant to its purpose, as stated in "In the Matter of the
Integration of the Bar of the Philippines," issued by the Supreme Court on January 9, 1973, and the provisions under
Guidelines Governing the Establishment and Operation of Legal Aid Offices in All Chapters of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (Guidelines on Legal Aid).

The petition claims that as a result of jail visitations participated in by the IBP Legal Aid Program, as well as a series of
consultations with the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the extant condition of detention prisoners, it was discovered
that several detention prisoners had been languishing in jail for years without a case being filed in court by the
prosecutor's office and without definite findings as to the existence or nonexistence of probable cause.

DOJ Issuances

The petition considers such condition of several detention prisoners as an alarming situation brought about by several
Department of Justice (DOJ) issuances, namely:

1. DOJ Circular (D.C.) No. 12, series of 2012, which provided that the dismissal of all drug-related
cases involving violations for which the maximum penalty is either reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment is subject to automatic review by the Justice Secretary whether such case has been
dismissed on inquest, preliminary investigation or reinvestigation. It also stated that [ t ]he automatic
review shall be summary in nature and shall, as far as practicable, be completed within 30 days from
receipt of the case records, without prejudice to the right of the respondent to be immediately released
from detention pending automatic review, unless the respondent is detained for other causes;

2. D.C. No. 22, series of 2013, entitled Guidelines on the Release of Respondents/ Accused Pending
Automatic Review of Dismissed Cases Involving Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165; and

3. D.C. No. 50, series of 2012, entitled Additional Guidelines on the Application of Article 125 of the
Revised Penal Code, as Amended (RPC).1

For the IBP, it is the height of injustice when innocent persons are left to suffer in jail for years without a fixed term.
Contending that it is their duty to defend the Constitution and protect the people against unwarranted imprisonment and
detention, the IBP is requesting the Court to act on the amendment of the Rules on Preliminary Investigation, by way of
a letter, which has been forwarded to the Committee on Revision. Pending the desired amendment, however, the IBP
urges the Court to act on the urgent and imperative need to release from detention those who are wrongfully
imprisoned despite the absence of probable cause.

The IBP represents in this case its client, Jay-Ar Senin (Senin). Senin's rights were allegedly violated because he has
been detained for at least eight months without any finding of probable cause or a case having been filed in court.

Senin's case started when a complaint against him and other unidentified persons was indorsed on February 9, 2015,
by Police Chief Inspector Crisante Pagaduan Sadino of the San Fabian Police Station, Pangasinan to the Provincial
Prosecutor's Office. He was arrested while engaged in the sale of illegal drugs during a buy-bust operation. Thereafter,
he executed a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the RPC. After the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor
resolved to dismiss the case. Pursuant to the then prevailing DOJ Circular, the case was forwarded to the DOJ for
automatic review.

The IBP claims that the waiver of Article 125 of the RPC does not vest the DOJ, Provincial Prosecutor's
Office (PPO), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the PNP, the unbridled right to detain Senin
indefinitely subject only to the whims and caprices of the reviewing prosecutor of the DOJ. Section 7, Rule 112 of the
Rules of Court explicitly provides that preliminary investigation must be terminated within 15 days from its inception if
the person arrested had requested for a preliminary investigation and had signed a waiver of the provisions of Article
125.2 It follows, therefore, that the waiver of Article 125 must coincide with the 15-day period of preliminary
investigation. The detention beyond this period violates Senin's constitutional right to liberty. The review of the
investigating prosecutor's resolution has been pending with the DOJ for more than eight months. The IBP concludes
that Senin must be released from detention and be relieved from the effects of the unconstitutional issuances of the
DOJ.

Thus, the petition prays that the Court:

a) declare that pursuant to A.M. No. 08-11-7-SC, the petitioner is exempt from the payment of filing
fees;

b) issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the release of Senin;

c) declare the aforementioned issuances of the DOJ as unconstitutional;

d) immediately set the case for hearing due to its urgency; and

e) issue a writ of kalayaan directing the release of all detention prisoners in a similar plight.

Department Circular No. 50

On December 18, 2015, D.C. No. 50 was issued by then Secretary of Justice (SOJ), now Associate Justice Alfredo
Benjamin S. Caguioa of this Court. In brief, D.C. No. 50 stated that a person with a pending case for automatic review
before the DOJ shall be released immediately if the review is not resolved within a period of 30 days, to wit:

9. All cases subject to automatic review shall be resolved by the Office of the Secretary within thirty (30)
days from the date the complete records are elevated to this Department in order to give the
concerned signatory of the review resolution sufficient time to study the case, the reviewing prosecutor
to whom the case is assigned is mandated to submit his recommendation to the concerned signatory
ten (10) days before the thirty (30) day deadline. The docket section of this Department is also directed
to monitor compliance with the periods prescribed herein.

If the case subject of the automatic review is not resolved within thirty (30) days, then the respondent
shall be immediately released from detention pending automatic review, unless the respondent is
detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 50 also directed all heads of prosecution offices to immediately issue corresponding release orders in favor of
respondents, whose cases are still pending automatic review before the Office of the Secretary, beyond the 30 day
period, unless they are detained for other causes.

Department Circular No. 003

On January 13, 2016, however, D.C. No. 003 was issued revoking DC No. 50 and reinstating D.C. No. 012, series of
2012.

Reversal of the Order of Dismissal

Meanwhile, on February 10, 2016, the Information against Senin for Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs was finally
filed by Prosecutor Marcelo C. Espinosa. Later, the RTC, Branch 43, Dagupan City (RTC), issued a commitment order
directing Senin's detention during the pendency of the case against him.

On February 16, 2016, the IBP filed a manifestation with motion informing the Court that to their surprise, Senin signed
a Motion for Issuance of Order of Release; that such motion was filed before the R TC, Branch 43, and was later on set
for hearing; that to protect the interest of Senin, the IBP filed a motion to intervene in the said proceeding; that no case
has been filed before the said trial court; that any action the R TC would take might pre-empt the Court in resolving this
case; and that Senin remains incarcerated despite the issuance of D.C. No. 50. With all these events, the IBP prays for
the issuance of an order directing BJMP to release Senin from detention unless detained for some other lawful causes.

An Amended Information, dated February 22, 2016, was subsequently filed before the RTC, Branch 43.

Department Circular No. 004

On January 4, 2017, the incumbent Secretary of Justice, Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, issued D.C. No. 004, series of 2017,
the pertinent provisions of which read:

In the interest of the service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, the dismissal of all cases
whether on inquest, preliminary investigation, reinvestigation or on appeal, filed for violation of
Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and involving the maximum
penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, shall be subject to automatic review by the
Secretary of Justice.

The entire records of the case shall be elevated to the Secretary of Justice, within three (3) days from
issuance of the resolution dismissing the complaint or appeal, as applicable, and the parties involved
shall be notified accordingly.

Notwithstanding the automatic review, respondent shall be immediately released from detention unless
detained for other causes.

This Department Circular shall apply to all pending cases and to those which have been dismissed
prior to the issuance hereof, if such dismissal has not yet attained finality as of the the effectivity of this
Circular.

This Department Order revokes all prior issuances inconsistent herewith and shall take effect
immediately until revoked.

For strict compliance.

Position of the IBP on the


effect of the amendments on
the DOJ issuances
The IBP concedes that the present detention of Senin had been overrun by the issuance of D.C. No. 50, the resolution
of the DOJ reversing the dismissal order of the PPO and the eventual filing of the February 22, 2016 Amended
Information. It remains firm, however, that despite these circumstances, the dismissal of this petition is not in order as
the writ of habeas corpus for the immediate release of Senin is but one of the three reliefs being sought from the Court.
The IBP reiterates that the constitutionality of DC No. 12, series of 2012, DC No. 22, series of 2013 and DC No. 50 is
still being questioned. Likewise, it emphasizes that the issuance of a writ of kalayaan is one of the reliefs prayed for in
order to protect those similarly situated as Senin.

The IBP pleads for the Court not to dismiss the petition outright and resolve the issue on the constitutionality of the DOJ
issuances in order to prevent the executive department from issuing orders which tend to violate basic constitutional
rights.

It appears that the IBP is unaware of the issuance of D.C. No. 004 as no manifestation has been filed with the Court
regarding the same circular.

Position of the BJMP

According to the BJMP, Senin has been confined in its facility through a valid commitment order issued by the court
and cannot be released without an order directing the same. It asserts that it has not disregarded or violated any
existing laws or policy at the expense of Senin's rights. The BJMP cites Agbay v. Deputy Ombudsman3 and its 2007
Revised BJMP Manual,4 wherein it is provided that court order is required before a prisoner can be released. It insists
that the continuous detention of Senin is legal considering that the RTC has already issued a commitment order, which
has not been recalled or revoked.

The BJMP avers that D.C. No. 50 does not vest it unbridled discretion to release prisoners because a court order is
always required. It opines that the filing of an Information against Senin for Illegal Possession of Dangerous Drugs
mooted the question on the legality of the latter's detention.

Position of the OSG

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) posits that the remedy of habeas corpus availed of by the IBP and Senin is
not appropriate considering that as of February 10, 2016, the SOJ has found the existence of probable cause for the
filing of information in court. For said reason, the OSG deems it unnecessary for the Court to determine the
constitutionality of the DOJ issuances as the question on the legality of Senin's detention has already been put to rest.
In other words, the OSG points out that the constitutional question is not the very lis mota of the case, thus, precluding
this Court from exercising its power of judicial review.

Reply of the IBP

The IBP seeks to nullify the DOJ issuances for the alleged violation of the detainee's rights. It asserts that the DOJ
issuances requiring the automatic review of dismissed cases involving drug-related cases for which the maximum
penalty is either reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, permit the indefinite confinement of a pre-trial detainee who
has waived Article 125 of the RPC in order to undergo preliminary investigation. The IBP believes that a person who
has requested the conduct of a preliminary investigation can only be detained for a maximum period of 15 days
because the Rules require that the preliminary investigation be terminated within such period despite waiver of Article
125. It also claims that those persons whose cases were dismissed initially by the investigating prosecutor should be
released even if the dismissal is still subject to re-investigation or to the SOJ's automatic review.

History of the DOJ Issuances

D. C. No. 46, dated June 26, 2003

The process of automatic review of dismissed drug cases was first instituted in 2003

Due to numerous complaints about illegal drug cases being whitewashed or dismissed due to sloppy police work,
former SOJ Simeon Datumanong issued D.C. No. 46, empowering the DOJ to automatically review dismissed cases
filed in violation of R.A. No. 9165 and involving the maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death.

The circular also applied to cases which had been dismissed prior to its issuance if such dismissal had not yet attained
finality as of the date of the circular.

D.C. No. 12, dated February 13, 2012


D.C. No. 46 was followed by D.C. No. 12 in which former SOJ Leila M. De Lima, for the most part, reiterated the
provisions of the first circular but added that automatic review of dismissed drug cases shall be without prejudice to the
right of the respondent to be immediately released from detention pending automatic review, unless respondent is
detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 22, dated February 12, 2013

A year after, SOJ De Lima revised the guidelines directing the continued detention of some respondents accused of
violating R.A. No. 9165. She reasoned that cases, where the maximum imposable penalty reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment, are presumably high-priority drug cases whose alleged perpetrators should remain in custody.

In this circular, the only respondents who may be released, pending automatic review of their cases by the SOJ, are
those whose cases were dismissed during inquest proceedings on the ground that the arrest was not a valid
warrantless arrest under Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, or that no probable cause exists to
charge respondents in court.

The respondents shall remain in custody, pending automatic review of the dismissal of their cases, in the following
instances as provided for under the circular:

1. When during inquest proceedings, respondent elects to avail of a regular preliminary investigation
and waives in writing the provisions of Article 125 of the RPC;

2. When an information is filed in court after inquest proceedings and the accused is placed in the
custody of the law, but the court allows the accused to avail of a regular preliminary investigation,
which results in the dismissal of the case, the handling prosecutor shall insist that the accused shall
remain in the custody of the law pending automatic review by the SOJ, unless the court provides
otherwise, or until the dismissal is affirmed by the SOJ and the corresponding motion to dismiss or
withdraw information is granted by the court;

3. When an information is filed in court after preliminary investigation proceedings and the accused is
placed in the custody of the law, but the court allows the accused to avail of reinvestigation, which
results in the dismissal of the case, the accused shall remain in custody of the law pending automatic
review by the SOJ, unless the court provides otherwise, or until the dismissal is affirmed by the SOJ
and the corresponding motion to dismiss or withdraw information is granted by the court; and

4. When the case against respondent is dismissed after due reinvestigation, if the case was
commenced as an inquest case but was converted to a regular preliminary investigation after
respondent elected the same and waived the provisions of Article 125 of the RPC.

D.C. No. 50, dated December 18, 2015

In order to address the problem of delay in the disposition of cases subject to automatic review and the prolonged
detention of drug suspects without any case filed against them, then SOJ Caguioa issued D.C. No. 50, directing all
heads of prosecution offices to immediately issue corresponding release orders in favor of respondents whose cases
are still pending automatic review before the SOJ beyond the 30-day period prescribed in the subject circular, unless
respondents are detained for some other causes.

D. C. No. 003, dated January 13, 2016

In view of the considerable number of petitions for habeas corpus filed against the DOJ by accused languishing in jail
for years while their cases were pending automatic review by the DOJ, then SOJ Caguioa revoked D.C. No. 50 dated
December 18, 2015 and D.C. No. 22, dated February 12, 2013.

SOJ Caguioa then reinstated D.C. No. 12, dated February 13, 2012, mandating immediate release of respondents
pending automatic review, unless respondents are detained for other causes.

D.C. No. 004, dated January 4, 2017

SOJ Vitaliano Aguirre, in this latest circular, reiterated the provisions of D.C. No. 3, dated January 13, 2016, in so far as
it orders the respondent/s to be immediately released from detention, pending automatic review, unless detained for
other causes.

Petition is moot and academic


The Court agrees with the OSG that this controversy has become moot and academic. First, the DOJ already issued
D.C. No. 004, series of 2017, which recognizes the right of a detainee to be released even if the dismissal of the case
on preliminary investigation is the subject of automatic review by the SOJ. Second, records show that the order of
dismissal was reversed; that upon filing of the information with the court, there was judicial determination of probable
cause against Senin; and that following such judicial determination, the court issued a warrant of arrest and a
commitment order.

The rule pertaining to pre-trial


detainees whose cases are under
preliminary investigation, or
whose cases have been dismissed
on inquest, preliminary
investigation but pending appeal,
motion for reconsideration,
reinvestigation or automatic
review

Although the latest circular of Secretary Aguirre is laudable as it adheres to the constitutional provisions on the rights of
pre-trial detainees, the Court will not dismiss the case on the ground of mootness. As can be gleaned from the
ever-changing DOJ circulars, there is a possibility that the latest circular would again be amended by succeeding
secretaries. It has been repeatedly held that "the Court will decide cases, otherwise moot, if: first, there is a grave
violation of the Constitution; second, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest are
involved; third, when the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the
bar, and the public; and fourth, the case is capable of repetition yet evading review. 5 All four (4) requisites are present
in this case.

As the case is prone to being repeated as a result of constant changes, the Court, as the guardian and final arbiter of
the Constitution6 and pursuant to its prerogative to promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of
constitutional rights,7 takes this opportunity to lay down controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public
on the propriety of the continued detention of an arrested person whose case has been dismissed on inquest,
preliminary investigation, reinvestigation, or appeal but pending automatic review by the SOJ.

The rule is that a person subject of a warrantless arrest must be delivered to the proper judicial authorities8 within the
periods provided in Article 125 of the RPC, otherwise, the public official or employee could be held liable for the failure
to deliver except if grounded on reasonable and allowable delays. Article 125 of the RPC is intended to prevent any
abuse resulting from confining a person without informing him of his offense and without allowing him to post bail. It
punishes public officials or employees who shall detain any person for some legal ground but fail to deliver such person
to the proper judicial authorities within the periods prescribed by law. In case the detention is without legal ground, the
person arrested can charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention under Article 124 of the RPC. This is without
prejudice to the possible filing of an action for damages under Article 32 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines.

Article 125 of the RPC, however, can be waived if the detainee who was validly arrested without a warrant opts for the
conduct of preliminary investigation.1âwphi1 The question to be addressed here, therefore, is whether such waiver
gives the State the right to detain a person indefinitely.

The Court answers in the negative.

The waiver of Article 125 of the RPC does not vest upon the DOJ, PPO, BJMP, and PNP the unbridled right to
indefinitely incarcerate an arrested person and subject him to the whims and caprices of the reviewing prosecutor of the
DOJ. The waiver of Article 125 must coincide with the prescribed period for preliminary investigation as mandated by
Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. Detention beyond this period violates the accused's constitutional right to
liberty.

Stated differently, the waiver of the effects of Article 125 of the RPC is not a license to detain a person ad
infinitum. Waiver of a detainee's right to be delivered to proper judicial authorities as prescribed by Article 125 of the
RPC does not trump his constitutional right in cases where probable cause was initially found wanting by reason of the
dismissal of the complaint filed before the prosecutor's office even if such dismissal is on appeal, reconsideration,
reinvestigation or on automatic review. Every person's basic right to liberty is not to be construed as waived by mere
operation of Section 7, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court. The fundamental law provides limits and this must be all the
more followed especially so that detention is proscribed absent probable cause.

Accordingly, the Court rules that a detainee under such circumstances must be promptly released to avoid violation of
the constitutional right to liberty, despite a waiver of Article 125, if the 15-day period (or the thirty 30- day period in
cases of violation of R.A. No. 91659 ) for the conduct of the preliminary investigation lapses. This rule also applies in
cases where the investigating prosecutor resolves to dismiss the case, even if such dismissal was appealed to the DOJ
or made the subject of a motion for reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review. The reason is that such
dismissal automatically results in a prima facie finding of lack of probable cause to file an information in court and to
detain a person.

The Court is aware that this decision may raise discomfort to some, especially at this time when the present
administration aggressively wages its "indisputably popular war on illegal drugs." As Justice Diosdado Peralta puts it,
that the security of the public and the interest of the State would be jeopardized is not a justification to trample upon the
constitutional rights of the detainees against deprivation of liberty without due process of law, to be presumed innocent
until the contrary is proved and to a speedy disposition of the case.

WHEREFORE, it is hereby declared, and ruled, that all detainees whose pending cases have gone beyond the
mandated periods for the conduct of preliminary investigation, or whose cases have already been dismissed on inquest
or preliminary investigation, despite pending appeal, reconsideration, reinvestigation or automatic review by the
Secretary of Justice, are entitled to be released pursuant to their constitutional right to liberty and their constitutional
right against unreasonable seizures, unless detained for some other lawful cause.

SO ORDERED.

10. Harry Go vs People, July 18, 2012

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 185527 July 18, 2012

HARRY L. GO, TONNY NGO, JERRY NGO AND JANE GO, Petitioners,
vs.
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and HIGHDONE COMPANY, LTD., ET AL., Respondents.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

The procedure for taking depositions in criminal cases recognizes the prosecution's right to preserve testimonial
evidence and prove its case despite the unavailability of its witness. It cannot, however, give license to prosecutorial
indifference or unseemly involvement in a prosecution witness' absence from trial. To rule otherwise would effectively
deprive the accused of his fundamental right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioners seek to nullify and set
aside the February 19, 2008 Decision1 and November 28, 2008 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R.
SP No. 99383, which reversed the September 12, 2006 Order 3 issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila,
Branch 27 in Civil Case No. 06-114844 and upheld the grant of the prosecution’s motion to take the testimony of a
witness by oral depositions in Laos, Cambodia.

Petitioners Harry Go, Tonny Ngo, Jerry Ngo and Jane Go were charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of
Manila for Other Deceits under Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) docketed as Criminal Case No. 396447.
The Information4 dated September 24, 2003, later amended5 on September 14, 2004, reads:

"That sometime in August 1996, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring, confederating together
and helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud Highdone Company Ltd.
Represented by Li Luen Ping, in the following manner, to wit: all said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representations which they made to said Li Luen Ping to the effect that they have chattels such as
machinery, spare parts, equipment and raw materials installed and fixed in the premises of BGB Industrial Textile Mills
Factory located in the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) in Mariveles, Bataan, executed a Deed of Mortgage for
a consideration of the amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 more or less in favor of ML
Resources and Highdone Company Ltd. Representing that the said deed is a FIRST MORTGAGE when in truth and in
fact the accused well knew that the same had been previously encumbered, mortgaged and foreclosed by CHINA
BANK CORPORATION as early as September 1994 thereby causing damage and prejudice to said HIGHDONE
COMPANY LTD., in the said amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 more or less."

Upon arraignment, petitioners pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The prosecution's complaining witness, Li Luen Ping, a frail old businessman from Laos, Cambodia, traveled from his
home country back to the Philippines in order to attend the hearing held on September 9, 2004. However, trial dates
were subsequently postponed due to his unavailability.

On October 13, 2005, the private prosecutor filed with the MeTC a Motion to Take Oral Deposition 6 of Li Luen Ping,
alleging that he was being treated for lung infection at the Cambodia Charity Hospital in Laos, Cambodia and that, upon
doctor's advice, he could not make the long travel to the Philippines by reason of ill health.

Notwithstanding petitioners' Opposition,7 the MeTC granted8 the motion after the prosecution complied with the
directive to submit a Medical Certificate of Li Luen Ping. Petitioners sought its reconsideration which the MeTC denied, 9
prompting petitioners to file a Petition for Certiorari10 before the RTC.

On September 12, 2006, the RTC granted the petition and declared the MeTC Orders null and void. 11 The RTC held
that Section 17, Rule 23 on the taking of depositions of witnesses in civil cases cannot apply suppletorily to the case
since there is a specific provision in the Rules of Court with respect to the taking of depositions of prosecution
witnesses in criminal cases, which is primarily intended to safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused to meet the
witness against him face to face.

Upon denial by the RTC of their motion for reconsideration through an Order dated March 5, 2006, 12 the prosecution
elevated the case to the CA.

On February 19, 2008, the CA promulgated the assailed Decision which held that no grave abuse of discretion can be
imputed upon the MeTC for allowing the deposition-taking of the complaining witness Li Luen Ping because no rule of
procedure expressly disallows the taking of depositions in criminal cases and that, in any case, petitioners would still
have every opportunity to cross-examine the complaining witness and make timely objections during the taking of the
oral deposition either through counsel or through the consular officer who would be taking the deposition of the witness.

On November 28, 2008, the CA denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition alleging that –

I.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT INFRINGED
THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO A PUBLIC TRIAL IN ALLOWING THE TAKING OF THE
DEPOSITION OF THE COMPLAINING WITNESS IN LAOS, CAMBODIA.

II.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE DEPOSITION TAKING OF THE COMPLAINING
WITNESS IN LAOS, CAMBODIA IS AN INFRINGEMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS
TO CONFRONT THE SAID WITNESS FACE TO FACE.

III.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE JUDICIAL LEGISLATION COMMITTED BY THE
METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT IN APPLYING THE RULES ON DEPOSITION-TAKING IN CIVIL CASES TO
CRIMINAL CASES.

IV.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN LIMITING THE TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION, OVERLOOKING THE ESTABLISHED RULE THAT VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION, THE LAW
OR JURISPRUDENCE SIMILARLY COMES WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

We rule in favor of petitioners.

The Procedure for Testimonial Examination of an Unavailable Prosecution Witness is Covered Under Section 15, Rule
119.

The examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court.13 This is true especially in criminal
cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a public trial and to meet the witnessess against him
face to face. The requirement is the "safest and most satisfactory method of investigating facts" as it enables the judge
to test the witness' credibility through his manner and deportment while testifying. 14 It is not without exceptions,
however, as the Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions as
testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony.
Even in criminal proceedings, there is no doubt as to the availability of conditional examination of witnesses – both for
the benefit of the defense, as well as the prosecution. The Court's ruling in the case of Vda. de Manguerra v. Risos15
explicitly states that –

"x x x As exceptions, Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court provide for the different modes of discovery that may be
resorted to by a party to an action. These rules are adopted either to perpetuate the testimonies of witnesses or as
modes of discovery. In criminal proceedings, Sections 12, 13 and 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, allow the conditional examination of both the defense and
prosecution witnesses." (Underscoring supplied)16

The procedure under Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court allows the taking of depositions in civil cases, either upon oral
examination or written interrogatories, before any judge, notary public or person authorized to administer oaths at any
time or place within the Philippines; or before any

Philippine consular official, commissioned officer or person authorized to administer oaths in a foreign state or country,
with no additional requirement except reasonable notice in writing to the other party. 17

But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness who would
forseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before the court, or at least before the
judge, where the case is pending as required by the clear mandate of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure. The pertinent provision reads thus:

SEC. 15. Examination of witness for the prosecution. – When it satisfactorily appears that a witness for the prosecution
is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial as directed by the court, or has to leave the Philippines with no definite date of
returning, he may forthwith be conditionally examined before the court where the case is pending. Such examination, in
the presence of the accused, or in his absence after reasonable notice to attend the examination has been served on
him shall be conducted in the same manner as an examination at the trial. Failure or refusal of the accused to attend
the examination after notice shall be considered a waiver. The statement taken may be admitted in behalf of or against
the accused.

Since the conditional examination of a prosecution witness must take place at no other place than the court where the
case is pending, the RTC properly nullified the MeTC's orders granting the motion to take the deposition of Li Luen Ping
before the Philippine consular official in Laos, Cambodia. We quote with approval the RTC's ratiocination in this wise:

The condition of the private complainant being sick and of advanced age falls within the provision of Section 15 Rule
119 of the Rules of Court. However, said rule substantially provides that he should be conditionally examined before
the court where the case is pending. Thus, this Court concludes that the language of Section 15 Rule 119 must be
interpreted to require the parties to present testimony at the hearing through live witnesses, whose demeanor and
credibility can be evaluated by the judge presiding at the hearing, rather than by means of deposition. No where in the
said rule permits the taking of deposition outside the Philippines whether the deponent is sick or not. 18(Underscoring
supplied)

Certainly, to take the deposition of the prosecution witness elsewhere and not before the very same court where the
case is pending would not only deprive a detained accused of his right to attend the proceedings but also deprive the
trial judge of the opportunity to observe the prosecution witness' deportment and properly assess his credibility, which
is especially intolerable when the witness' testimony is crucial to the prosecution's case against the accused. This is the
import of the Court's ruling in Vda. de Manguerra19 where we further declared that –

While we recognize the prosecution's right to preserve the testimony of its witness in order to prove its case, we cannot
disregard the rules which are designed mainly for the protection of the accused's constitutional rights. The giving of
testimony during trial is the general rule. The conditional examination of a witness outside of the trial is only an
exception, and as such, calls for a strict construction of the rules. 20 (Underscoring supplied)

It is argued that since the Rules of Civil Procedure is made explicitly applicable in all cases, both civil and criminal as
well as special proceedings, the deposition-taking before a Philippine consular official under Rule 23 should be deemed
allowable also under the circumstances.

However, the suggested suppletory application of Rule 23 in the testimonial examination of an unavailable prosecution
witness has been categorically ruled out by the Court in the same case of Vda. de Manguerra, as follows:

It is true that Section 3, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules of civil procedure apply to all actions, civil or
criminal, and special proceedings. In effect, it says that the rules of civil procedure have suppletory application to
criminal cases. However, it is likewise true that criminal proceedings are primarily governed by the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure.
Considering that Rule 119 adequately and squarely covers the situation in the instant case, we find no cogent reason to
apply Rule 23 suppletorily or otherwise." (Underscoring supplied)

The Conditional Examination of a Prosecution Witness Cannot Defeat the Rights of the Accused to Public Trial and
Confrontation of Witnesses

The CA took a simplistic view on the use of depositions in criminal cases and overlooked fundamental considerations
no less than the Constitution secures to the accused, i.e., the right to a public trial and the right to confrontation of
witnesses. Section 14(2), Article III of the

Constitution provides as follows:

Section 14. (1) x x x

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

In dismissing petitioners' apprehensions concerning the deprivation of their constitutional rights to a public trial and
confrontation, the CA opined that petitioners would still be accorded the right to cross-examine the deponent witness
and raise their objections during the deposition-taking in the same manner as in a regular court trial.

We disagree. There is a great deal of difference between the face-to- face confrontation in a public criminal trial in the
presence of the presiding judge and the cross-examination of a witness in a foreign place outside the courtroom in the
absence of a trial judge. In the aptly cited case of People v. Estenzo,21 the Court noted the uniqueness and significance
of a witness testifying in open court, thus:

"The main and essential purpose of requiring a witness to appear and testify orally at a trial is to secure for the adverse
party the opportunity of cross-examination. "The opponent", according to an eminent authority, "demands confrontation,
not for the idle purpose of gazing upon the witness, or of being gazed upon by him, but for the purpose of cross
examination which cannot be had except by the direct and personal putting of questions and obtaining immediate
answers." There is also the advantage of the witness before the judge, and it is this – it enables the judge as trier of
facts "to obtain the elusive and incommunicable evidence of a witness' deportment while testifying, and a certain
subjective moral effect is produced upon the witness. It is only when the witness testifies orally that the judge may have
a true idea of his countenance, manner and expression, which may confirm or detract from the weight of his testimony.
Certainly, the physical condition of the witness will reveal his capacity for accurate observation and memory, and his
deportment and physiognomy will reveal clues to his character. These can only be observed by the judge if the witness
testifies orally in court. x x x"22 (Underscoring supplied)1âwphi1

The right of confrontation, on the other hand, is held to apply specifically to criminal proceedings and to have a twofold
purpose: (1) to afford the accused an opportunity to test the testimony of witnesses by cross-examination, and (2) to
allow the judge to observe the deportment of witnesses. 23 The Court explained in People v. Seneris24 that the
constitutional requirement "insures that the witness will give his testimony under oath, thus deterring lying by the threat
of perjury charge; it forces the witness to submit to cross-examination, a valuable instrument in exposing falsehood and
bringing out the truth; and it enables the court to observe the demeanor of the witness and assess his credibility." 25

As the right of confrontation is intended "to secure the accused in the right to be tried as far as facts provable by
witnesses as meet him face to face at the trial who give their testimony in his presence, and give to the accused an
opportunity of cross-examination,"26 it is properly viewed as a guarantee against the use of unreliable testimony in
criminal trials. In the American case of Crawford v. Washington,27 the US Supreme Court had expounded on the
procedural intent of the confrontation requirement, thus:

Where testimonial statements are involved, we do not think the Framers meant to leave the Sixth Amendment's right to
confront witness face to face protection to the vagaries of the rules of evidence, much less to amorphous notions of
"reliability". Certainly, none of the authorities discussed above acknowledges any general reliability exception to the
common-law rule.

Admitting statements deemed reliable by a judge is fundamentally at odds with the right of confrontation. To be sure,
the Clause's ultimate goal is to ensure reliability of evidence, but it is a procedural rather than a substantive guarantee.
It commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the
crucible of cross-examination. The Clause thus reflects a judgment, not only about the desirability of reliable evidence
(a point on which there could be little dissent), but about how reliability can best be determined." (Underscoring
supplied)

The Webb Ruling is Not on All Fours with the Instant Case

The CA found the frail and infirm condition of the prosecution witness as sufficient and compelling reason to uphold the
MeTC Orders granting the deposition-taking, following the ruling in the case of People v. Webb28 that the taking of an
unavailable witness' deposition is in the nature of a discovery procedure the use of which is within the trial court's sound
discretion which needs only to be exercised in a reasonable manner and in consonance with the spirit of the law.29

But the ruling in the cited case is not instantly applicable herein as the factual settings are not similar.1âwphi1 The
accused in the Webb case had sought to take the oral deposition of five defense witnesses before a Philippine consular
agent in lieu of presenting them as live witnesses, alleging that they were all residents of the United States who could
not be compelled by subpoena to testify in court. The trial court denied the motion of the accused but the CA differed
and ordered the deposition taken. When the matter was raised before this Court, we sustained the trial court's
disallowance of the deposition-taking on the limited ground that there was no necessity for the procedure as the matter
sought to be proved by way of deposition was considered merely corroborative of the evidence for the defense. 30

In this case, where it is the prosecution that seeks to depose the complaining witness against the accused, the
stringent procedure under Section 15, Rule 119 cannot be ignored without violating the constitutional rights of the
accused to due process.

Finally, the Court takes note that prosecution witness Li Luen Ping had managed to attend the initial trial proceedings
before the MeTC of Manila on September 9, 2004. At that time, Li Luen Ping's old age and fragile constitution should
have been unmistakably apparent and yet the prosecution failed to act with zeal and foresight in having his deposition
or testimony taken before the MeTC pursuant to Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court. In fact, it should
have been imperative for the prosecution to have moved for the preservation of Li Luen Ping's testimony at that first
instance given the fact that the witness is a non-resident alien who can leave the Philippines anytime without any
definite date of return. Obviously, the prosecution allowed its main witness to leave the court's jurisdiction without
availing of the court procedure intended to preserve the testimony of such witness. The loss of its cause is attributable
to no other party.

Still, even after failing to secure Li Luen Ping's conditional examination before the MeTC prior to said witness'
becoming sick and unavailable, the prosecution would capitalize upon its own failure by pleading for a liberal
application of the rules on depositions. It must be emphasized that while the prosecution must provide the accused
every opportunity to take the deposition of witnesses that are material to his defense in order to avoid charges of
violating the right of the accused to compulsory process, the State itself must resort to deposition-taking sparingly if it is
to guard against accusations of violating the right of the accused to meet the witnesses against him face to face. Great
care must be observed in the taking and use of depositions of prosecution witnesses to the end that no conviction of an
accused will rely on ex parte affidavits and deposition.31

Thus, the CA ignored the procedure under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for taking the deposition of an
unavailable prosecution witness when it upheld the trial court's order allowing the deposition of prosecution witness Li
Luen Ping to take place in a venue other than the court where the case is pending. This was certainly grave abuse of
discretion.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated February 19, 2008 and the Resolution
dated November 28, 2008 of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the Decision of the
Regional Trial Court which disallowed the deposition-taking in Laos, Cambodia is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

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