Criminal Law

DECLARADOR vs. GUBATON G.R. No. 159208 August 18, 2006 R.A. No. 9344

FACTS:

Frank Bansales, 17 yrs old at the time of the commission of the crime, attacked, assaulted and stabbed with a knife his teacher, YVONNE DECLARADOR, thereby hitting and inflicting upon the latter multiple fatal stab wounds in the different parts of the body which caused her immediate death. The charge against Bansales was murder with the qualifying circumstance of either evident premeditation or abuse of superior strength. Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Rep. Act No. 7659, the imposable penalty for the crime is reclusion perpetua to death. The trial court found him guilty of murder.

Rennie Declarador, the surviving spouse of the deceased, filed a petition for certiorari assailing that portion of the decision of the trial court’s decision suspending the sentence of the accused and committing him to the rehabilitation center.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction in ordering the suspension of the sentence of respondent Bansales and his commitment to the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth.

 

RULING:

Article 192 of P.D. No. 603, as amended, provides:

Art. 192. Suspension of Sentence and Commitment of Youthful Offender. – If after hearing the evidence in the proper proceedings, the court should find that the youthful offender has committed the acts charged against him, the court, shall determine the imposable penalty, including any civil liability chargeable against him.

However, instead of pronouncing judgment of conviction, the court, upon application of the youthful offender and if it finds that the best interest of the public, as well as that of the offender will be served thereby, may suspend all further proceedings and commit such minor to the custody or care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or to any training institution operated by the government or any other responsible person until he shall have reached twenty-one years of age, or for a shorter period as the court may deem proper, after considering the reports and recommendations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the government training institution or responsible person under whose care he has been committed.

Upon receipt of the application of the youthful offender for suspension of his sentence, the court may require the DSWD to prepare and submit to the court a social case study report over the offender and his family.

The youthful offender shall be subject to visitation and supervision by the representative of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or government training institution as the court may designate subject to such conditions as it may prescribe.

The benefits of this article shall not apply to a youthful offender who has once enjoyed suspension of sentence under its provisions or to one who is convicted for an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment or to one who is convicted for an offense by the Military Tribunals.

Sec. 32. Automatic Suspension of Sentence and Disposition Orders. – The sentence shall be suspended without need of application by the juvenile in conflict with the law. The court shall set the case for disposition conference within fifteen (15) days from the promulgation of sentence which shall be attended by the social worker of the Family Court, the juvenile, and his parents or guardian ad litem. It shall proceed to issue any or a combination of the following disposition measures best suited to the rehabilitation and welfare of the juvenile: care, guidance, and supervision orders; Drug and alcohol treatment; Participation in group counseling and similar activities; Commitment to the Youth Rehabilitation Center of the DSWD or other centers for juvenile in conflict with the law authorized by the Secretary of DSWD.

The Social Services and Counseling Division (SSCD) of the DSWD shall monitor the compliance by the juvenile in conflict with the law with the disposition measure and shall submit regularly to the Family Court a status and progress report on the matter. The Family Court may set a conference for the evaluation of such report in the presence, if practicable, of the juvenile, his parents or guardian, and other persons whose presence may be deemed necessary.

The benefits of suspended sentence shall not apply to a juvenile in conflict with the law who has once enjoyed suspension of sentence, or to one who is convicted of an offense punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, or when at the time of promulgation of judgment the juvenile is already eighteen (18) years of age or over.

Thus, it is clear that a person who is convicted of an offense punishable by death, life imprisonment, or reclusion perpetua is disqualified from availing the benefits of a suspended sentence. “Punishable” is defined as “deserving of, or capable, or liable to punishment; liable to be punished; may be punished; liable to punishment.”  The word “punishable” does not mean “must be punished,” but “liable to be punished” as specified.  In U.S. v. Villalon,  the Court defined punishable as “deserving of, or liable for, punishment.” Thus, the term refers to the possible, not to the actual sentence. It is concerned with the penalty which may be, and not which is imposed.

The disqualification is based on the nature of the crime charged and the imposable penalty therefor, and not on the penalty imposed by the court after trial. It is not the actual penalty imposed but the possible one which determines the disqualification of a juvenile.

Despite the disqualification of Bansales, respondent Judge, nevertheless, ordered the suspension of the sentence meted against him. By this act, respondent Judge committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction.

We note that, in the meantime, Rep. Act No. 9344 took effect on May 20, 2006. Section 38 of the law reads:

SEC. 38. Automatic Suspension of Sentence. – Once the child who is under eighteen (18) years of age at the time of the commission of the offense is found guilty of the offense charged, the court shall determine and ascertain any civil liability which may have resulted from the offense committed. However, instead of pronouncing the judgment of conviction, the court shall place the child in conflict with the law under suspended sentence, without need of application: Provided, however, That suspension of sentence shall still be applied even if the juvenile is already eighteen (18) years of age or more at the time of the pronouncement of his/her guilt.

Upon suspension of sentence and after considering the various circumstances of the child, the court shall impose the appropriate disposition measures as provided in the Supreme Court on Juveniles in Conflict with the Law.

The law merely amended Article 192 of P.D. No. 603, as amended by A.M. No. 02-1-18-SC, in that the suspension of sentence shall be enjoyed by the juvenile even if he is already 18 years of age or more at the time of the pronouncement of his/her guilt. The other disqualifications in Article 192 of P.D. No. 603, as amended, and Section 32 of A.M. No. 02-1-18-SC have not been deleted from Section 38 of Rep. Act No. 9344. Evidently, the intention of Congress was to maintain the other disqualifications as provided in Article 192 of P.D. No. 603, as amended, and Section 32 of A.M. No. 02-1-18-SC. Hence, juveniles who have been convicted of a crime the imposable penalty for which is reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua to death or death, are disqualified from having their sentences suspended.

Case law has it that statutes in pari materia should be read and construed together because enactments of the same legislature on the same subject are supposed to form part of one uniform system; later statutes are supplementary or complimentary to the earlier enactments and in the passage of its acts the legislature is supposed to have in mind the existing legislations on the subject and to have enacted the new act with reference thereto. 19 Statutes in pari materia should be construed together to attain the purpose of an expressed national policy. 20

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is GRANTED. The Order of the respondent Judge suspending the sentence of respondent Frank Bansales is NULLIFIED.

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