Efren D. Almuete, Ila and Lloren were charged with violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705 “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines,” as amended by E.O. No. 277.
On the scheduled date of promulgation of judgment, petitioner and Lloren were ill while Ila was not notified of the scheduled promulgation. The RTC, however, found their absence inexcusable and proceeded to promulgate its Decision as scheduled. The accused were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, sentenced to suffer the penalty of 18 years, 2 months and 21 days of reclusion temporal, as minimum period to 40 years of reclusion perpetua as maximum period.
Petitioner and his co-accused moved for reconsideration,which was denied. Instead of filing an appeal, petitioner and his co-accused filed a Petition for Certiorari with the CA.
The CA granted the Petition, and acquitted Almuete.
The acquittal of petitioner prompted the People of the Philippines to elevate the case to this Court via a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45.
This Court reversed petitioner’s acquittal and reinstated the RTC’s Decision.
Petitioner’s three motions for reconsideration were denied.
Petitioner filed with the RTC a Motion for Repromulgation of the said Decision, which the RTC denied.
On appeal, petitioner’s Petition for Certiorari was dismissed by the CA for lack of merit.
Petitioner’s MR was denied, hence, this recourse.
Notably, the Office of the Solicitor General prayed for the modification of the imposable penalty, in accordance with the ISL.
Whether or not the Court may modify the penalty imposed notwithstanding the finality of the assailed decision.
The petition lacks merit.
This Court is not unaware of the rule that “a final judgment may no longer be altered, amended or modified, even if the alteration, amendment or modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law and regardless of what court, be it the highest court of the land, rendered it.”
However, this Court has suspended the application of this rule based on certain recognized exceptions, viz:
Aside from matters of life, liberty, honor or property which would warrant the suspension of the Rules of the most mandatory character and an examination and review by the appellate court of the lower court’s findings of fact, the other elements that should be considered are the following: (a) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (b) the merits of the case, (c) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (d) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (e) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.
In this case, it cannot be gainsaid that what is involved is the life and liberty of petitioner.
Substantial justice demands that we suspend our Rules in this case. “It is always within the power of the court to suspend its own [R]ules or except a particular case from its operation, whenever the purposes of justice require. x x x Indeed, when there is a strong showing that a grave miscarriage of justice would result from the strict application of the Rules, this Court will not hesitate to relax the same in the interest of substantial justice. “Suspending the Rules is justified “where there exist strong compelling reasons, such as serving the ends of justice and preventing a miscarriage thereof.” After all, the Court’s “primordial and most important duty is to render justice x x x.”