Constitutional Law, Political Law

NOTES ON THE BILL OF RIGHTS and CITIZENSHIP

Compiled by 

CARLO L. CRUZ

Excerpts from the January-June 2018 Decisions of the Supreme Court

Police Power

… while the authority of city mayors to issue or grant licenses and business permits is granted by the Local Government Code (LGC), which also vests local government units with corporate powers, one of which is the power to sue and be sued, this Court has held that the power to issue or grant licenses and business permits is not an exercise of the government’s proprietary function. Instead, it is in an exercise of the police power of the State, ergo a governmental act. (The City of Bacolod v. Phuture Vision Co., Inc., G.R. No. 190289, January 17, 2018)

Ordinance No. 092-2000, which regulates the construction and installation of building and other structures such as billboards within Davao City, is an exercise of police power. (Evasco v. Montañez, G.R. No. 199172, February 21, 2018)

[Note: Republic Act No. 4354 otherwise known as the Revised Charter of the City of Davao (Davao City Charter), enacted on June 19, 1965, vested the local Sangguniang Panlungsod with the legislative power to regulate, prohibit, and fix license fees for the display, construction, and maintenance of billboards and similar structures.  With the aforementioned law, Congress expressly granted the Davao City government, through the Sangguniang Panlungsod, police power to regulate billboard structures within its territorial jurisdiction. (Evasco v. Montañez, G.R. No. 199172, February 21, 2018)]

An ordinance constitutes a valid exercise of police power if: (a) it has a lawful subject such that the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, require its exercise; and (b) it uses a lawful method such that its implementing measures must be reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. (Evasco v. Montañez, G.R. No. 199172, February 21, 2018)

[Note: First, Ordinance No. 092-2000 seeks to regulate all signs and sign structures based on prescribed standards as to its location, design, size, quality of materials, construction anerd maintenance to: (a) safeguard the life and property of Davao City’s inhabitants; (b) keep the surroundings clean and orderly; (c) ensure public decency and good taste; and (d) preserve a harmonious aesthetic relationship of these structures as against the general surroundings.  Second, the ordinance employs the following rules in implementing its policy, viz.: (a) Minimum distances must be observed in installing and constructing outdoor billboards (i.e., 150 meters unobstructed line of sight, 10 meters away from the property lines abutting the right-of-way); (b) Additional requirements shall be observed (i.e., billboards shall have a maximum total height of 17 meters, the top and bottom lines of billboards shall follow a common base) in locations designated as “regulated areas” to preserve the natural view and beauty of the Davao River, Mt. Apo, the Davao City Skyline, and the view of Samal Island; (c) Sign permits must be secured from and proper fees paid to the city government; and (d) Billboards without permits, without the required marking signs, or otherwise violative of any provision thereof shall be removed, allowing the owner 60 days from receipt of notice to correct and address its violation. (Evasco v. Montañez, G.R. No. 199172, February 21, 2018)]

The Court will not be quick at invalidating an ordinance as unreasonable unless the rules imposed are so excessive as to be prohibitive, arbitrary, unreasonable, oppressive, or confiscatory. It must be remembered that the local legislative authority has a wide discretion to determine not only what the interests of the public require but also what measures are necessary for the protection of such interests. We accord high respect to the Sanggunians issuance because the local council is in the best position to determine the needs of its constituents. (Evasco v. Montañez, G.R. No. 199172, February 21, 2018)

Eminent Domain

Private Property

In the instant case, petitioner asserts that he is entitled to the possession of the road lot being one of the co-owners of the same since it is registered under the name of petitioner’s parents. While respondents do not claim ownership of the subject lot, they argued that the road lot is now public property because of Ordinance No. 88-04, series of 1988, constituting it as “Don Juan St. Gat-Mendoza.” As such, petitioner cannot evict respondents. It is undisputed that the road lot is registered under the name of petitioner’s parents. Even the respondents did not dispute this fact. It is also undisputed that the municipal government has not undertaken any expropriation proceedings to acquire the subject property; neither did the petitioner donate or sell the same to the municipal government. Therefore, absent any expropriation proceedings and without any evidence that the petitioner donated or sold the subject property to the municipal government, the same is still private property. (Gatchalian v. Flores, G.R. No. 225176, January 19, 2018)

[Note: Since the local government of Parañaque has not purchased nor undertaken any expropriation proceedings, neither did the petitioner and his siblings donate the subject property, the latter is still a private property and Ordinance No. 88-04 did not convert the same to public property. (Gatchalian v. Flores, G.R. No. 225176, January 19, 2018)]

Taking

There is no question that at the time of taking of the subject property, it was classified as agricultural land, based on the records of the Municipal Assessor’s Office of Porac, Pampanga. As observed by Mr. Murillo in his Commissioner’s Report, the subject property consists of sugar land and sand deposits. He further noted that while there were allegations that the property was reclassified to industrial land, there was no sign of industrial development at the time of the ocular inspection except for the construction of the SCTEX project. (The Manila Banking Corporation v. Bases Conversion and Development Authority, G.R. No. 230144, January 22, 2018)

Public Use

“The right of eminent domain is the ultimate right of the sovereign power to appropriate, not only the public but the private property of all citizens within the territorial sovereignty, to public purpose.” There are two mandatory requirements before the government may exercise such right, namely: (1) that it is for a particular public purpose; and (2) that just compensation be paid to the property owner. “Notably, in agrarian reform cases, the taking of private property for distribution to landless farmers is considered to be one for public use.” (Apo Fruits Corporation v. The Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 217985-96, March 21, 2018)

Just Compensation

The purpose of just compensation is not to reward the owner for the property taken, but to compensate him for the loss thereof. As such, the true measure of the property, as upheld in a plethora of cases, is the market value at the time of the taking, when the loss resulted. Indeed, the State is not obliged to pay premium to the property owner for appropriating the latter’s property; it is only bound to make good the loss sustained by the landowner, with due consideration to the circumstances availing at the time the property was taken. 

In addition, the Court also recognizes that the owner’s loss is not only his property, but also its income-generating potential. Thus, when property is taken, full compensation of its value must be immediately paid to achieve a fair exchange for the property and the potential income lost. The value of the landholdings should be equivalent to the principal sum of the just compensation due, and interest is due and should be paid to compensate for the unpaid balance of this principal sum after taking has been completed. This shall comprise the real, substantial, full, and ample value of the expropriated property, and constitutes due compliance with the constitutional mandate of just compensation in eminent domain. (Republic v. Macabagdal, G.R. No. 227215, January 10, 2018)

The concept of just compensation has long been settled by the Court as the full and fair equivalent of the property which must be paid to the owners of the land within a reasonable time from its taking. This is because, without prompt payment, “compensation cannot be considered „just‟ inasmuch as the property owner is being made to suffer the consequences of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for a decade or more before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss.” (Yared v. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 213945, January 24, 2018)

The Court recognizes that the owner’s loss is not limited to his property alone but includes its incomegenerating potential. The government, upon its taking of the landholding, must properly compensate the landowner through its payment of the full valuation of the property with imposition of legal interest. This is the only way to achieve a fair exchange for the property and the potential income loss of the landowner. (Yared v. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 213945, January 24, 2018)

… the determination of just compensation must be based on reliable and actual data. (The Manila Banking Corporation v. Bases Conversion and Development Authority, G.R. No. 230144, January 22, 2018, citing Republic of the Philippines v. C. C. Unson Company, Inc., G.R. No. 215107, February 24, 2016)

The final determination of just compensation is strictly within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the Special Agrarian Court. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)

[Note: There is no need to exhaust administrative remedies through the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator, Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator, or the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board before a party can go to the Special Agrarian Court for determination of just compensation. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)]

[Note: Thus, while Section 17 (of Republic Act No. 6657) requires due consideration of the formula prescribed by DAR, the determination of just compensation is still subject to the final decision of the proper court. (Land Bank of the

Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)]

Jurisprudence clearly provides for the landowner‟s remedies when his property is taken by the government for public use; he may recover his property if its return is still feasible or, if it is not, he may demand payment of just compensation for the land taken. In this case, the return of the subject properties is no longer feasible as they had been used in the construction of dams for the DPWH‟s SWIM project, which was already completed. Thus, the Rebadullas‟ relief was to recover just compensation. (Rebadulla v. Republic, G.R. No. 222159, January 31, 2018)

[Note: In this case, the Supreme Court allowed the recovery of just compensation through a petition for mandamus with damages. (Rebadulla v. Republic, G.R. No. 222159, January 31, 2018)]

… until and unless declared invalid in a proper case, the basic formulas contained in DAR administrative orders partake of the nature of statutes; hence, courts have the positive legal duty to consider, and not disregard, their use and application in the determination of just compensation for agricultural lands covered by R.A. No. 6657. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Alcantara, G.R. No. 187423, February 28, 2018)

The valuation of property in eminent domain is essentially a judicial function which cannot be vested in administrative agencies. The executive department or the legislature may make the initial determination, but when a party claims a violation of the guarantee in the Bill of Rights that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation, no statute, decree, or executive order can mandate that its own determination shall prevail over the court’s findings. Much less can the courts be precluded from looking into the “just-ness” of the decreed compensation. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Herederos de Ciriaco Chunaco Distileria, Inc., G.R. No. 206992, June 11, 2018)

[Note: Any effort to transfer such jurisdiction to the adjudicators and to convert the original jurisdiction of the RTCs into appellate jurisdiction would be contrary to Section 57 and therefore would be void. The DAR has no authority to qualify or undo the RTC-SAC’s jurisdiction over the determination of just compensation under R.A. No. 6657. Thus, the 15-day reglementary period under Section 11, Rule XIII of the DARAB Rules cannot be sustained. The RTC-SAC cannot simply be reduced to an appellate court which reviews administrative decisions of the DAR within a short period to appeal. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Herederos de Ciriaco Chunaco Distileria, Inc., G.R. No. 206992, June 11, 2018)]

Interest

However, as aptly pointed out by petitioner, the twelve percent (12%) p.a. rate of legal interest is only applicable until June 30, 2013. Thereafter, legal interest shall be at six percent (6%) p.a. in line with BSP-MB Circular No. 799, Series of 2013. Prevailing jurisprudence has upheld the applicability of BSP-MB Circular No. 799, Series of 2013 to forbearances of money in expropriation cases, contrary to respondent’s contention. The cases of Sy v. Local Government of Quezon City and Land Bank of the Philippines v. Wycoco, cited by respondent are both inapplicable because they were all decided prior to the effectivity of BSP-MB Circular No. 799, Series of 2013 on July 1, 2013. (Republic v. Macabagdal, G.R. No. 227215, January 10, 2018; see also

Land Bank of the Philippines v. Prado Verde Corporation, G.R. No. 208004/G.R. No. 208112/G.R. No. 210243, July 30, 2018)

[Note: Nonetheless, it bears to clarify that legal interest shall run not from the date of the filing of the complaint but from the date of the issuance of the Writ of Possession on May 5, 2008, since it is from this date that the fact of the deprivation of property can be established. As such, it is only proper that accrual of legal interest should begin from this date. (Republic v. Macabagdal, G.R. No. 227215, January 10, 2018)]

With the issuance of BSP-MB Circular No. 799, Series of 2013, however, which became effective on July 1, 2013, in the absence of an express stipulation as to the rate of interest that would govern the parties, the rate of legal interest for loans or forbearance of any money, goods or credits and the rate allowed in judgments shall no longer be twelve percent (12%) per annum but shall now be six percent (6%) per annum effective July 1, 2013. Consequently, the twelve percent (12%) per annum legal interest shall apply only until June 30, 2013, and from July 1, 2013, the new rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be the prevailing rate of interest when applicable. (The Manila Banking Corporation v. Bases Conversion and Development Authority, G.R. No. 230144, January 22, 2018; see Felisa Agricultural Corporation v. National Transmission Corporation, G.R. No.

231655, July 2, 2018; National Transmission Corporation v. Lacson-De Leon, G.R. No. 221624, July 4, 2018)

The delay in payment likewise requires the imposition of legal interest by way of damages.  (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)

Applying the foregoing jurisprudence, an interest rate of 12% per annum shall be imposed on the amount of Pl1,537,478.00 representing the difference between the initial deposit of P7,067,426.91 and actual compensation as judicially determined to be P18,604,478.00 reckoned from September 25, 1996 until June 30, 2013. Thereafter, an interest rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed until full payment. (Yared v. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 213945, January 24, 2018)

In the present case, LBP merely deposited the amount of Php3,814,053.53 as initial payment of the just compensation. The RTC’s valuation in its decision as just compensation for the subject property is Php 149,783,000.27. There is a staggering difference between the initial payment made by the LBP and the amount of the just compensation due to Apo. It should be noted that the subject property has already been taken by the government on December 9, 1996. Up to this date, the just compensation has not been fully paid. During the interim, Apo is deprived of the income it would have made had it been properly compensated for the properties at the time of the taking. It is therefore necessary to hold LBP liable to pay for the legal interest due to its delay in fully satisfying the payment of the just compensation. 

Thus, LBP is liable to pay legal interest of 12% counted from December 9, 1996, the time of the taking until June 30, 2013. Thereafter, or beginning July 1, 2013 until fully paid, the just compensation shall earn 6% legal interest in accordance with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Monetary Board Circular No. 799, Series of 2013. (Apo Fruits Corporation v. The Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 217985-96, March 21, 2018)

Execution

A judgment may be executed pending appeal for good reasons, such as where the government belatedly pays the just compensation for properties taken under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)

[Note: Thus, this Court agrees with the Regional Trial Court that “[f]or reasons of equity, justice and fair play, [respondents] should be paid to enable them to cope up with the loss they sustained as a result of the taking and for their economic survival.” (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)]

Taxation

While the City of Manila could impose against Cosmos a manufacturer’s tax under Section 14 of Ordinance No. 7794, or the Revenue Code of Manila, it cannot at the same time impose the tax under

Section 21 of the same code; otherwise, an obnoxious double taxation would set in. (City of Manila v. Cosmos

Bottling Corporation, G.R. No. 196681, June 27, 2018)

Due Process

While, indeed, service of a judgment or resolution must be done only personally or by registered mail, and that mere showing of a downloaded copy of the October 5, 2011 Resolution to respondent is not a valid service, the fact, however, that respondent was duly informed of her suspension remains unrebutted. Again, as stated above, she filed a motion for reconsideration on the October 5, 2011 Resolution, and the Court duly notified her of the denial of said motion. It thus follows that respondent’s six months suspension commenced from the notice of the denial of her motion for reconsideration on November 12, 2012 until May 12, 2013. (Tan v. Gumba, A.C. No. 9000, January 10, 2018)

“It is doctrinally entrenched that the right to appeal is a statutory right and the one who seeks to avail of that right must comply with the statute or rules. The requirements for perfecting an appeal within the reglementary period specified in the law must be strictly followed as they are considered indispensable interdictions against needless delays. Moreover, the perfection of appeal in the manner and within the period set by law is not only mandatory but jurisdictional as well. The failure to perfect the appeal within the time prescribed by the Rules of Court unavoidably renders the judgment final as to preclude the appellate court from acquiring the jurisdiction to review the judgment. It bears stressing that the statutory nature of the right to appeal requires the appealing party to strictly comply with the statutes or rules governing the perfection of an appeal, as such statutes or rules are instituted in order to promote an orderly discharge of judicial business. In the absence of highly exceptional circumstances warranting their relaxation, the statutes or rules should remain inviolable.” (Albor v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 196598, January 17, 2018)

In the present case, it is uncontested that petitioner failed to give respondent ample opportunity to contest the legality of his dismissal since he was neither given a notice to explain nor a notice of termination. The first and second notice requirements have not been properly observed; thus, respondent’s dismissal, albeit with valid grounds, is tainted with illegality. (Allied Banking Corporation v. Calumpang, G.R. No. 219435, January 17, 2018)

The above findings overwhelmingly show that Dela Merced & Sons was not denied due process. In a real sense, it was able to take advantage of the available opportunities to explain its side and to question the acts and orders of the DENR-PAB. In administrative proceedings, a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain one’s side suffices to meet the requirements of due process. It is wrong for Dela Merced & Sons to insist that a trial-type proceeding is necessary. Administrative due process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense. In the former, a formal or trial-type hearing is not always necessary, and technical rules of procedure are not strictly applied.  It is not legally objectionable for an administrative agency to resolve a case based solely on position papers, affidavits or documentary evidence submitted by the parties as is the case here. In any event, whatever procedural defect there may have been in the subject proceedings was cured when Dela Merced & Sons moved for reconsideration. (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)

Under the Mineral Resources Decree of 1974, as amended, and as properly interpreted by established jurisprudence, abandonment by non-performance of the annual work obligation could be declared only after the observance of due process. (Asiga Mining Corporation v. Manila Mining Corporation and Basiana Mining Exploration Corporation, G.R. No. 199081, January 24, 2018)

[Note: Based on the facts as borne by the records of this case, the Court is of the considered opinion that Asiga did not abandon its mining claims over the subject area. To rule that it did on the basis merely of the non-submission of the affidavit and the non-payment of fees, without considering the relevant implementing rules and regulations of the law as well as settled jurisprudence on the matter, would cause undue injury to a right granted – and thus protected by law – unto the petitioner. (Asiga Mining Corporation v. Manila Mining Corporation and Basiana Mining Exploration Corporation, G.R. No. 199081, January 24, 2018)]

In expropriation cases, a party cannot allege lack of due process when he or she was given every reasonable opportunity to present his or her case before the courts. (Land Bank of the Philippines v. Manzano, G.R. No. 188243, January 24, 2018)

In issuing the assailed order, Judge Velasco was actually enforcing the Judicial Affidavit Rule, promulgated by the Court. Therefore, by no stretch of the imagination may Judge Velasco’s faithful observance of the rules of procedure, be regarded as a capricious, whimsical or arbitrary act. xxx. Moreover, by no stretch of the imagination may it be concluded that Lagon was deprived of due process of law. There is nothing in the provisions of the Judicial Affidavit Rule which prohibits a defendant from filing a demurrer to evidence, if he truly believes that the evidence adduced by the plaintiff is insufficient. Besides, in the resolution of the demurrer to evidence, only the evidence presented by the plaintiff shall be considered and weighed by the Court. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is mandated to submit his judicial affidavit prior to the trial and before the plaintiff has rested his case is not a cumbersome requirement or a circumvention of due process. (Lagon v. Velasco, G.R. No. 208424, February 14, 2018)

In this regard, the company-designated physician is mandated to issue a medical certificate, which should be personally received by the seafarer, or, if not practicable, sent to him/her by any other means sanctioned by present rules. For indeed, proper notice is one of cornerstones of due process, and the seafarer must be accorded the same especially so in cases where his/her well-being is at stake. A companydesignated physician who fails to “give” an assessment herein interpreted and defined fails to abide by due process, and consequently, fails to abide by the foregoing guidelines. (Gere v. Anglo-Easter Crew Management Phils., Inc., G.R. No. 226656, April 23, 2018)

Appeal is not a matter of right. Courts and tribunals have the discretion whether to give due course to an appeal or to dismiss it outright. The perfection of an appeal is, thus, jurisdictional. Non-compliance with the manner in which to file an appeal renders the judgment final and executory. (Malcaba v. Prohealth Pharma Philippines, Inc., G.R. 209085, June 6, 2018)

In Dimayuga v. Office of the Ombudsman (528 Phil. 42, 51 [2006]), we held that the Office of the Ombudsman may, for every particular investigation, decide how best to pursue each investigation. This power gives the Office of the Ombudsman the discretion to dismiss without prejudice a preliminary investigation if it finds that the final decision of the COA is necessary for its investigation and future prosecution of the case. It may also pursue the investigation because it realizes that the decision of the COA is irrelevant or unnecessary to the investigation and prosecution of the case. Since the Office of the Ombudsman is granted such latitude, its varying treatment of similarly situated investigations cannot by itself be xxx considered a violation of petitioner’s right to due process. (Pasok v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 218413, June 6, 2018)

Respondent is seriously in error for claiming denial of due process. Respondent refuses to recognize the Court’s jurisdiction over the subject matter and over her person on the ground that respondent, as a purported impeachable official, can only be removed exclusively by impeachment. Reiterating this argument, respondent filed her Comment to the Petition, moved that her case be heard on Oral Argument, filed her Memorandum, filed her Reply/Supplement to the OSG’s Memorandum and now presently (sic) moves for reconsideration. All these representations were made ad cautelam which, stripped of its legal parlance, simply means that she asks to be heard by the Court which jurisdiction she does not acknowledge. She asked relief from the Court and was in fact heard by the Court, and yet she claims to have been denied of due process. She repeatedly discussed the supposed merits of her opposition to the present quo warranto petition in various social and traditional media, and yet she claims denial of due process. The preposterousness of her claim deserves scant consideration. (Republic v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration, June 19, 2018)

To reiterate, mere imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis. Acts or conduct clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice has to be shown. Verily, for bias and prejudice to be considered sufficient justification for the inhibition of a Member of this Court, mere suspicion is not enough. (Republic v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration, June 19, 2018)

[Note: Moreover, as discussed in the main Decision, respondent’s allegations on the grounds for inhibition were merely based on speculations, or on distortions of the language, context and meaning of the answers given by the concerned Justices as resource persons in the proceedings of the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives. These matters were squarely resolved by the Court in its main Decision, as well as in the respective separate opinions of the Justices involved. (Republic v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration, June 19, 2018)]

[Note: Indeed, the Members of the Court’s right to inhibit are weighed against their duty to adjudicate the case without fear of repression. Respondent’s motion to require the inhibition of Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas P. Bersamin, Diosdado M. Peralta, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, and Noel Gimenez Tijam, who all concurred to the main Decision, would open the floodgates to the worst kind of forum shopping, and on its face, would allow respondent to shop for a Member of the Court who she perceives to be more compassionate and friendly to her cause, and is clearly antithetical to the fair administration of justice. (Republic v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration, June 19, 2018)]

[Note: Bordering on the absurd, respondent alleges prejudice based on the footnotes of the main Decision which show that the draft thereof was being prepared as early as March 15, 2018 when respondent has yet to file her Comment. Respondent forgets to mention that the Petition itself was filed on March 5, 2018 where the propriety of the remedy of quo warranto was specifically raised. Certainly, there is nothing irregular nor suspicious for the Member-inCharge, nor for any of the Justices for that matter, to have made a requisite initial determination on the matter of jurisdiction. In professing such argument, respondent imputes fault on the part of the Justices for having been diligent in the performance of their work. (Republic v. Sereno, G.R. No. 237428, Resolution on the Motion for Reconsideration, June 19, 2018)]

This Court will not require a judge to inhibit himself in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that he will dispense justice in accordance with law and evidence. (Chavez v. Marcos, G.R. No. 185484, June 27, 2018)

[Note: Whether or not to voluntarily inhibit from hearing a case is a matter within the judge’s discretion. Absent clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will dispense justice in accordance with law and evidence, this Court will not interfere. (Chavez v. Marcos, G.R. No. 185484, June 27, 2018)]

Equal Protection

There is a substantial distinction between employers who paid prior and subsequent to R.A. No. 9903’s effectivity. (H. Villarica Pawnshop, Inc. v. Social Security Commission, G.R. No. 228087, January 24, 2018)

[Note: Significantly, petitioners have already paid not only their delinquent contributions but also their corresponding penalties before the enactment and effectivity of R.A. No. 9903. Because of this observation, petitioners cannot anymore be considered as “delinquent” under the purview of R.A. No. 9903 and are not within the class of “delinquent employers.” Simply put, they are not similarly situated with other employers who are delinquent at the time of the law’s effectivity. Accordingly, Congress may treat petitioners differently from all other employers who may have been delinquent. (H. Villarica Pawnshop, Inc. v. Social Security Commission, G.R. No. 228087, January 24, 2018)]

[Note: Verily, this Court cannot – in the guise of interpretation – modify the explicit language of R.A. No. 9903 in waiving the collection of accrued penalties to also include claims for refund. It obviously violates the Trias Politica Principle entrenched in the very fabric of democracy itself. While violation of the equal protection clause may be a compelling ground for this Court to nullify an arbitrary or unreasonable legislative classification, it may not be used as a basis to extend the scope of a law to classes not intended to be covered. Therefore, R.A. No. 9903, which waived outstanding penalties, cannot be expanded to allow a refund of those which were already settled before the law’s effectivity. (H. Villarica Pawnshop, Inc. v. Social Security Commission, G.R. No. 228087, January 24, 2018)]

In Dimayuga v. Office of the Ombudsman (528 Phil. 42, 51 [2006]), we held that the Office of the Ombudsman may, for every particular investigation, decide how best to pursue each investigation. xxx. Since the Office of the Ombudsman is granted such latitude, its varying treatment of similarly situated investigations cannot by itself be considered a violation of any of the parties’ rights to the equal protection of the laws. (Pasok v. Office of the Ombudsman, G.R. No. 218413, June 6, 2018)

The prosecution of offenses is generally addressed to the sound discretion of the fiscal. A claim of “selective prosecution” may only prosper if there is extrinsic evidence of “clear of intentional discrimination.” The prosecution of one person to the exclusion of others who may be just as guilty does not automatically entail a violation of the equal protection clause. (Abubakar v. People, G.R. Nos. 202408, 202409, and 202412, June 27, 2018)

[Note: Selective prosecution is a concept that is foreign to this jurisdiction. It originated from United States v. Armstrong, a 1996 case decided by the United States Supreme Court. A case for selective prosecution arises when a prosecutor charges defendants based on “constitutionally prohibited standards such as race, religion or other arbitrary classification.” Essentially, a selective prosecution claim rests upon an alleged violation of the equal protection clause. Although “selective prosecution” has not been formally adopted in this jurisdiction, there are cases that have been decided by this Court recognizing the possibility of defendants being unduly discriminated against through the prosecutorial process. The burden lies on the defendant to show discriminatory intent through extrinsic evidence. (Abubakar v. People, G.R. Nos. 202408, 202409, and 202412, June 27, 2018)]

[Note: …the prosecution of one person to the exclusion of others who may be just as guilty does not automatically entail a violation of the equal protection clause. There must be a showing of discriminatory intent or “clear and intentional discrimination,” which can only be established through extrinsic evidence. (People v. Dela Piedra, 403 Phil. 31 [2001], cited in Abubakar v. People, G.R. Nos. 202408, 202409, and 202412, June 27, 2018)]

[Note: Petitioners failed to establish discriminatory intent on the part of the Ombudsman in choosing not to indict other alleged participants to the anomalous transactions. Their contention that several other public officials were not criminally charged, by itself, does not amount to a violation of petitioners Abubakar and Baraguir’s right to equal protection of laws. The evidence against the others may have been insufficient to establish probable cause. There may have been no evidence at all. At this point, all this Court could do is speculate. In the absence of extrinsic evidence establishing discriminatory intent, a claim of selective prosecution cannot prosper. (Abubakar v. People, G.R. Nos. 202408, 202409, and 202412, June 27, 2018)]

Arrests, Searches and Seizures

It also claims that the DENR-PAB simply entered the former’s premises and unilaterally conducted an inspection and thereafter assessed excessive fines without first conducting conferences or a trial. xxx. As for the inspection, the EMB-NCR was only performing its mandated duty under R.A. 9275 and the IRR thereof when it inspected the premises of the Guadalupe Commercial Complex. Clearly, the EMB had legal authority when it conducted the inspection. (Republic v. N. de la Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)

Jurisprudence has consistently held that “prior surveillance is not a prerequisite for the validity of an entrapment operation xxx especially if the buy-bust team is accompanied to the target area by their informant.” (People v. Villahermoso, G.R. No. 218208, January 24, 2018)

Santos asserted that the search warrant was only for an undetermined amount of shabu; thus, the discovery of the incriminating items other than that described in the warrant must result from bodily search or seized in plain view to be admissible in evidence. 

The assertion of Santos has no merit considering that he did not question the admissibility of the seized items as evidence against him during the trial of these cases. It was only when he appealed the decision of the RTC before the CA that he raised the issue as to the admissibility of the seized items. Wellentrenched in our jurisprudence is that no question will be entertained on appeal unless it has been raised in the lower court. (People v. Santos, G.R. No. 223142, January 17, 2018)

It must, however, be clarified that a search warrant issued in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure does not give the authorities limitless discretion in implementing the same as the same Rules provide parameters in the proper conduct of a search.” One of those parameters set by law is Section 8 of Rule 126, to wit: 

Section 8. Search of house, room, or premise to be made in presence of two witnesses. – No search of a house, room, or any other premise shall be made except in the presence of the lawful occupant thereof or any member of his family or in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.  

The law is mandatory to ensure the regularity in the execution of the search warrant. This requirement is intended to guarantee that the implementing officers will not act arbitrarily which may tantamount to desecration of the right enshrined in our Constitution. (Dabon v. People, G.R. No. 208775, January 22, 2018)

[Note: In this case, it is undisputed that Dabon and his wife were actually present in their residence when the police officers conducted the search in the bedroom where the drugs and drug paraphernalia were found. It was also undisputed that, as the CA recognized, only Brgy. Kagawad Angalot was present to witness the same. (Dabon v. People, G.R. No. 208775, January 22, 2018)]

[Note: Failure to comply with the safeguards provided by law in implementing the search warrant makes the search unreasonable. Thus, the exclusionary rule applies, i.e., any evidence obtained in violation of this constitutional mandate is inadmissible in any proceeding for any purpose. We emphasize that the exclusionary rule ensures that the fundamental rights to one’s person, houses, papers, and effects are not lightly infringed upon and are upheld. (Dabon v. People, G.R. No. 208775, January 22, 2018)]

Lastly, We find that the inadmissibility of the evidence obtained was not defeated by the fact that Dabon failed to timely object to such evidence’s admissibility during trial. Although Section 14 of Rule 126 states that a motion to quash a search warrant and/or to suppress evidence obtained thereby may be filed in and acted upon only by the court where the action has been instituted, the purpose for which such provision was enacted must nevertheless be considered. In the case of Ogayon v. People, We clarified that “the provision was intended to resolve what is perceived as conflicting decisions on where to file a motion to quash a search warrant or to suppress evidence seized by virtue thereof. It was certainly not intended to preclude belated objections against the search warrant’s validity.” (Dabon v. People, G.R. No. 208775, January 22, 2018)

[Note: In the Ogayon case, We brushed aside such procedural defect and gave more prime to a fundamental constitutional right. We set aside adherence to procedural rules and recognized that procedural rules can neither diminish nor modify substantial rights. Like in Ogayon, We rule that Dabon’s failure to file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained against him cannot be considered as a sufficient indication that he clearly, categorically, knowingly, and intelligently made a waiver. This is in consonance with Our ruling in People v. Bodoso where We underlined that in criminal cases where life, liberty and property are all at stake, “[t]he standard of waiver requires that it not only must be voluntary, but must be knowing, intelligent, and done with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences.” After all, he raised the objection in his Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration before the trial court. (Dabon v. People, G.R. No. 208775, January 22, 2018)]

As to the legality of his warrantless arrest, appellant is already estopped from questioning such because it was never raised prior to his having entered a plea of not guilty. Moreover, the rule is that an accused is estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to move to quash the information against him before his arraignment. Any objection involving the arrest or the procedure in the acquisition by the court of jurisdiction over the person of an accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise, the objection is deemed waived. Even in the instances not allowed by law, a warrantless arrest is not a jurisdictional defect, and objection thereto is waived where the person arrested submits to arraignment without objection. The subsequent filing of the charges and the issuance of the corresponding warrant of arrest against a person illegally detained will cure the defect of that detention. (People v. Fernandez, G.R. No. 226400, January 24, 2018)

The law (Section 21 of RA 9165) requires the presence of an elected public official, as well as a representative from the DOJ and the media in order to ensure the establishment of the chain of custody and remove any suspicion of switching, planting, or contamination of evidence. (People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 229671, January 31, 2018) 

As amended by Republic Act No. 10640, Section 21(1) uses the disjunctive “or,” i.e., “with an elected public official and a representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media.” Thus, a representative from the media and a representative from the National Prosecution Service are now alternatives to each other. (People v. Que, G.R. No. 212994, January 31, 2018)

The law requires the presence of an elected public official, as well as representatives from the DOJ and the media to ensure that the chain of custody rule is observed and thus, remove any suspicion of tampering, switching, planting, or contamination of evidence which could considerably affect a case. However, minor deviations may be excused in situations where a justifiable reason for non-compliance is explained. In this case, despite the non-observance of the witness requirement, no plausible explanation was given by the prosecution. (People v. Crispo, G.R. No. 230065, March 14, 2018)

The presence of the three witnesses must be secured not only during the inventory but more importantly at the time of the warrantless arrest. It is at this point in which the presence of the three witnesses is most needed, as it is their presence at the time of seizure and confiscation that would belie any

doubt as to the source, identity, and integrity of the seized drug. If the buy-bust operation is legitimately conducted, the presence of the insulating witnesses would also controvert the usual defense of frame-up as the witnesses would be able to testify that the buy-bust operation and inventory of the seized drugs were done in their presence in accordance with Section 21 of RA 9165. (People v. Tomawis, G.R. No. 228890, April 18, 2018; see also People v. Sood, G.R. No. 227394, June 6, 2018; People v. Ga-a, G.R. No. 222559, June 6, 2018; People v. Callejo, G.R. No. 227427, June 6, 2018)

[Note: The presence of the above-mentioned witnesses shall only be required during the physical inventory of the confiscated items. (People v. Otico, G.R. No. 231133, June 6, 2018)]

[Note: In fine, the following flaws or defects in the strict observance by the police officers of Section 21 of RA 9165 and its IRR are apparent: xxx. Except for the elected official, the required witnesses were not present during the inventory and photograph taking. Only one of the three third-party witnesses was present. xxx. (People v. Otico, G.R.

No. 231133, June 6, 2018)]

Section 21 (1) of RA 9165 plainly requires the apprehending team to conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and the photographing of the same immediately after seizure and confiscation. Further, the inventory must be done in the presence of the accused, his counsel, or representative, a representative of the DOJ, the media, and an elected public official, who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof. xxx. This also means that the three required witnesses should already be physically present at the time of apprehension – a requirement that can easily be complied with by the buy-bust team considering that the buy-bust operation is, by its nature, a planned activity. In other words, the buy-bust team has enough time and opportunity to bring with them said witnesses. (People v. Supat, G.R. No. 217027, June 6, 2018)

The presence of the three witnesses must be secured not only during the inventory but, more importantly, at the time of the warrantless arrest. It is at this point in which the presence of the three witnesses is most needed, as it is their presence at the time of seizure and confiscation that would belie any doubt as to the source, identity, and integrity of the seized drug. (People v. Supat, G.R. No. 217027, June 6,

2018)

[Note: To restate, the presence of the three witnesses at the time of seizure and confiscation of the drugs must be secured and complied with at the time of the buy-bust arrest; such that they are required to be at or near the intended place of the arrest so that they can be ready to witness the inventory and photographing of the seized and confiscated drugs “immediately after seizure and confiscation.” (People v. Supat, G.R. No. 217027, June 6, 2018)]

It is not amiss to state that R.A. No. 10640, which amended Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, now only requires two (2) witnesses to be present during the conduct of the physical inventory and taking of photograph of the seized items, namely: (a) an elected public official; and (b) either a representative from the National Prosecution Service or the media. (People v. Sipin, G.R. No. 224290, June 11, 2018)

[Note: …if the evidence of illegal drugs was not handled precisely in the manner prescribed by the chain of custody rule, the consequence relates not to inadmissibility that would automatically destroy the prosecution’s case but rather to the weight of evidence presented for each particular case. xxx. … the Court’s power to promulgate judicial rules, including rules of evidence, is no longer shared by the Court with Congress. xxx. …the chain of custody rule is a matter of evidence and a rule of procedure, and that the Court has the last say regarding the appreciation of evidence. Evidentiary matters are indeed well within the powers of courts to appreciate and rule upon, and so, when the courts find appropriate, substantial compliance with the chain of custody rule as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items have been preserved may warrant the conviction of the accused. (People v. Teng Moner y Adam, G.R. No. 202206, March 5, 2018, cited in People v. Sipin, G.R. No. 224290, June 11, 2018)]

At this juncture, it is important to clarify that the fact that Miranda raised his objections against the integrity and evidentiary value of the drugs purportedly seized from him only for the first time before the CA does not preclude it or even this Court from passing upon the same. (People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 229671, January 31, 2018) 

[Note: In this case, the prosecution failed to provide justifiable grounds for the police officers’ non-compliance with Section 21 of RA 9165, as well as its IRR. Thus, even though these lapses have only surfaced on appeal, reasonable doubt now persists in upholding the conviction of the accused. As the integrity and evidentiary value of the corpus delicti had been compromised, Miranda’s acquittal is perforce in order. (People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 229671, January 31, 2018)]

A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment used to apprehend drug peddlers. It is considered valid as long as it passes the “objective test,” which demands that the details of the purported transaction during the buy-bust operation must be clearly and adequately shown, i.e., the initial contact between the poseurbuyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, and the promise or payment of the consideration until the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the illegal drug subject of the sale.” (People v. Dumagay, G.R. No. 216753, February 7, 2018)

In the instant case, the CA correctly found that there was a valid buy-bust operation as the prosecution was able to establish details of the transaction from the initial contact of the poseur-buyer and the appellant up to the consummation of the sale by the delivery of the morphine. The identities of the poseur-buyer and the appellant, as the seller of the morphine, and the details of the procedure employed by the police operatives in conducting the buy-bust were clearly established by the prosecution. The fact that the poseur-buyer, through the CI, solicited morphine from appellant is not prohibited by law and does not render the buy-bust operation invalid as, under prevailing jurisprudence, “a police officer’s act of soliciting drugs from the accused during a buy-bust operation, or what is known as a ‘decoy solicitation,’ is not prohibited by law and does not render the buy-bust operation invalid. (People v. Dumagay, G.R. No. 216753, February 7, 2018)

[Note: There is instigation when “the accused is lured into the commission of the offense charged in order to prosecute him.” On the other hand, “[t]here is entrapment when law officers employ ruses and schemes to ensure the apprehension of the criminal while in the actual commission of the crime.” (People v. Dumagay, G.R. No. 216753, February 7, 2018)]

[Note: “It is a matter of judicial notice that buy-bust operations are ‘susceptible to police abuse, the most notorious of which is its use as a tool for extortion.”‘ Such being the case, procedural safeguards, including those specified under Section 21, RA 9165, are provided in order to protect the innocent from abuse, and to ensure the preservation of the integrity of the evidence. (People v. Bugtong, G.R. No. 220451, February 26, 2018)]

One of the constitutional requirements for the validity of a search warrant is that it must be issued based on probable cause which, under the Rules, must be in connection with one specific offense to prevent the issuance of a scatter-shot warrant. In search warrant proceedings, probable cause is defined as such facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent man to believe that an offense has been committed and that the objects sought in connection with the offense are in the place sought to be searched. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

In this case, Search Warrant No. 01-118 was issued for “violation of R.A. No. 8799 (The Securities Regulation Code) and for estafa (Art. 315, RPC).”

First, violation of the SRC is not an offense in itself for there are several punishable acts under the said law such as manipulation of security prices, insider trading, acting as dealer or broker without being registered with the SEC, use of unregistered exchange, use of unregistered clearing agency, and violation of the restrictions on borrowings by members, brokers, and dealers among others. Even the charge of “estafa under Article 315 of the RPC” is vague for there are three ways of committing the said crime: (1) with unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence; (2) by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts; or (3) through fraudulent means. The three ways of committing estafa may be reduced to two, i.e., (1) by means of abuse of confidence; or (2) by means of deceit. For these reasons alone, it can be easily discerned that Search Warrant No. 01-118 suffers a fatal defect. xxx.

Aside from its failure to specify what particular provision of the SRC did respondents allegedly violate, Search Warrant No. 01-118 also covered estafa under the RPC. xxx. Moreover, the SRC is not merely a special penal law. It is first and foremost a codification of various rules and regulations governing securities. Thus, unlike, the drugs law wherein there is a clear delineation between use and possession of illegal drugs, the offenses punishable under the SRC could not be lumped together in categories. Hence, it is imperative to specify what particular provision of the SRC was violated.

Second, to somehow remedy the defect in Search Warrant No. 01-118, petitioner insists that the warrant was issued for violation of Section 28.1 of the SRC, which reads, “No person shall engage in the business of buying or selling securities in the Philippines as a broker or dealer, or act as a salesman, or an associated person of any broker or dealer unless registered as such with the Commission.” However, despite this belated attempt to pinpoint a provision of the SRC which respondents allegedly violated, Search Warrant No. 01-118 still remains null and void. The allegations in the application for search warrant do not indicate that respondents acted as brokers or dealers without prior registration from the SEC which is an essential element to be held liable for violation of Section 28.l of the SRC. It is even worthy to note that Section 28.1 was specified only in the SEC’s Comment on the Motion to Quash, dated 5 April 2002. 

In addition, even assuming that violation of Section 28.1 of the SRC was specified in the application for search warrant, there could have been no finding of probable cause in connection with that offense. xxx.

Here, the applicant for the search warrant did not present proof that respondents lacked the license to operate as brokers or dealers. Such circumstance only reinforces the view that at the time of the application, the NBI and the SEC were in a quandary as to what offense to charge respondents with.

Third, contrary to petitioner’s claim that violation of Section 28.1 of the SRC and estafa are so intertwined with each other that the issuance of a single search warrant does not violate the one-specificoffense rule, the two offenses are entirely different from each other and neither one necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the other. An offense may be said to necessarily include another when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former 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. xxx. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

Finally, the Court’s rulings in Columbia Pictures, Inc. v. CA (Columbia) (329 Phil. 875 [1996]) and Laud v. People (Laud) (747 Phil. 503 [2014]) even militate against petitioner. In Columbia, the Court ruled that a search warrant which covers several counts of a certain specific offense does not violate the one-specific-offense rule xxx. In Laud, Search Warrant No. 09-14407 was adjudged valid as it was issued only for one specific offense – that is, for Murder, albeit for six (6) counts. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

In this case, the core of the problem is that the subject warrant did not state one specific offense. It included violation of the SRC which, as previously discussed, covers several penal provisions and estafa, which could be committed in a number of ways. Hence, Search Warrant No. 01-118 is null and void for having been issued for more than one specific offense. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

It is elemental that in order to be valid, a search warrant must particularly describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. The constitutional requirement of reasonable particularity of description of the things to be seized is primarily meant to enable the law enforcers serving the warrant to: (1) readily identify the properties to be seized and thus prevent them from seizing the wrong items; and (2) leave said peace officers with no discretion regarding the articles to be seized and thus prevent unreasonable searches and seizures. It is not, however, required that the things to be seized must be described in precise and minute detail as to leave no room for doubt on the part of the searching authorities. 

In Bache and Co. (Phil.), Inc. v. Judge Ruiz (148 Phil. 794 [1971]), it was pointed out that one of the tests to determine the particularity in the description of objects to be seized under a search warrant is when the things described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offense for which the warrant is being issued. 

In addition, under the Rules of Court, the following personal property may be the subject of a search warrant: (i) the subject of the offense; (ii) fruits of the offense; or (iii) those used or intended to be used as the means of committing an offense. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

Here, as previously discussed, Search Warrant No. 01-118 failed to state the specific offense alleged committed by respondents. Consequently, it could not have been possible for the issuing judge as well as the applicant for the search warrant to determine that the items sought to be seized are connected to any crime. Moreover, even if Search Warrant No. 01-118 was issued for violation of Section 28.1 of the SRC, as petitioner insists, the documents, articles and items enumerated in the search warrant failed the test of particularity. The terms used in this warrant were too all-embracing, thus, subjecting all documents pertaining to the transactions of respondents, whether legal or illegal, to search and seizure. Even the phrase “and other showing that these companies acted in violation of their actual registration with the SEC” does not support petitioner’s contention that Search Warrant No. 01-118 was indeed issued for violation of Section 28.1 of the SRC; the same could well-nigh pertain to the corporations’ certificate of registration with the SEC and not just to respondents’ lack of registration to act as brokers or dealers. 

In fine, Search Warrant No. 01-118 is null and void for having been issued for more than one offense and for lack of particularity in the description of the things sought for seizure. (People v. Pastrana and Abad, G.R. No. 196045, February 21, 2018)

In view of the foregoing, the bus inspection conducted by Task Force Davao at a military checkpoint constitutes a reasonable search. Bus No. 66 of Davao Metro Shuttle was a vehicle of public transportation where passengers have a reduced expectation of privacy. Further, SCAA Buco merely lifted petitioner’s bag. This visual and minimally intrusive inspection was even less than the standard x-ray and physical inspections done at the airport and seaport terminals where passengers may further be required to open their bags and luggages. Considering the reasonableness of the bus search, Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application, thereby precluding the necessity for a warrant. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No.

215305, April 3, 2018)

Similarly, in this case, petitioner consented to the baggage inspection done by SCAA Buco. When SCAA Buco asked if he could open petitioner’s bag, petitioner answered ”yes, just open it” based on petitioner’s own testimony. This is clear consent by petitioner to the search of the contents of his bag. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)

[Note: Doubtless, the constitutional immunity against unreasonable searches and seizures is a personal right, which may be waived. However, to be valid, the consent must be voluntary such that it is specific, and intelligently given, uncontaminated by any duress or coercion. Relevant to this determination of voluntariness are the following characteristics of the person giving consent and the environment in which consent is given: (a) the age of the consenting party; (b) whether he or she was in a public or secluded location; (c) whether he or she objected to the search or passively looked on; (d) his or her education and intelligence; (e) the presence of coercive police procedures; (f) the belief that no incriminating evidence will be found; (g) the nature of the police questioning; (h) the environment in which the questioning took place; and (i) the possibly vulnerable subjective state of the person consenting.” (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)]

[Note: … in People v. Johnson, the Court declared airport searches as outside the protection of the search and seizure clause due to the lack of an expectation of privacy that society will regard as reasonable… in Dela Cruz v. People, the Court described seaport searches as reasonable searches on the ground that the safety of the traveling public overrides a person’s right to privacy… in People v. Breis, the Court also justified a bus search owing to the reduced expectation of privacy of the riding public…(Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)]

To emphasize, a reasonable search, on the one hand, and a warrantless search, on the other, are mutually exclusive. While both State intrusions are valid even without a warrant, the underlying reasons for the absence of a warrant are different. A reasonable search arises from a reduced expectation of privacy, for which reason Section 2, Article III of the Constitution finds no application. Examples include searches done at airports, seaports, bus terminals, malls, and similar public places. In contrast, a warrantless search is presumably an “unreasonable search,” but for reasons of practicality, a search warrant can be dispensed with. Examples include search incidental to a lawful arrest, search of evidence in plain view, consented search, and extensive search of a private moving vehicle. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)

[Note: In the conduct of bus searches, the Court lays down the following guidelines. Prior to entry, passengers and their bags and luggages can be subjected to a routine inspection akin to airport and seaport security protocol. In this regard, metal detectors and x-ray scanning machines can be installed at bus terminals. Passengers can also be frisked. In lieu of electronic scanners, passengers can be required instead to open their bags and luggages for inspection, which inspection must be made in the passenger’s presence. Should the passenger object, he or she can validly be refused entry into the terminal. 

While in transit, a bus can still be searched by government agents or the security personnel of the bus owner in the following three instances. First, upon receipt of information that a passenger carries contraband or illegal articles, the bus where the passenger is aboard can be stopped en route to allow for an inspection of the person and his or her effects. This is no different from an airplane that is forced to land upon receipt of information about the contraband or illegal articles carried by a passenger on board. Second, whenever a bus picks passengers en route, the prospective passenger can be frisked and his or her bag or luggage be subjected to the same routine inspection by government agents or private security personnel as though the person boarded the bus at the terminal. This is because, unlike an airplane, a bus is able to stop and pick passengers along the way, making it possible for these passengers to evade the routine search at the bus terminal. Third, a bus can be flagged down at designated military or police checkpoints where State agents can board the vehicle for a routine inspection of the passengers and their bags or luggages.

In both situations, the inspection of passengers and their effects prior to entry at the bus terminal and the search of the bus while in transit must also satisfy the following conditions to qualify as a valid reasonable search. First, as to the manner of the search, it must be the least intrusive and must uphold the dignity of the person or persons being searched, minimizing if not altogether eradicating, any cause for public embarrassment, humiliation or ridicule. Second, neither can the search result from any discriminatory motive such as insidious profiling, stereotyping and other similar motives. In all instances, the fundamental rights of vulnerable identities, persons with disabilities, children and other similar groups should be protected. Third, as to the purpose of the search, it must be confined to ensuring public safety. Fourth, as to the evidence seized from the reasonable search, courts must be convinced that precautionary measures were in place to ensure that no evidence was planted against the accused. 

The search of persons in a public place is valid because the safety of others may be put at risk. Given the present circumstances, the Court takes judicial notice that public transport buses and their terminals, just like passenger ships and seaports, are in that category. 

Aside from public transport buses, any moving vehicle that similarly accepts passengers at the terminal and along its route is likewise covered by these guidelines. Hence, whenever compliant with these guidelines, a routine inspection at the terminal or of the vehicle itself while in transit constitutes a reasonable search. Otherwise, the intrusion becomes unreasonable, thereby triggering the constitutional guarantee under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. 

To emphasize, the guidelines do not apply to privately-owned cars. Neither are they applicable to moving vehicles dedicated for private or personal use, as in the case of taxis, which are hired by only one or a group of passengers such that the vehicle can no longer be flagged down by any other person until the passengers on board alight from the vehicle. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)]

In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large majority of these cases, e.g., whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for conducting a search. In this instance, the law requires that there first be a lawful arrest before a search can be made – the process cannot be reversed. At bottom, assuming a valid arrest, the arresting officer may search the person of the arrestee and the area within which the latter may reach for a weapon or for evidence to destroy, and seize any money or property found which was used in the commission of the crime, or the fruit of the crime, or that which may be used as evidence, or which might furnish the arrestee with the means of escaping or committing violence. (Malacat v. Court of Appeals, 347 Phil.  462 [1997], cited in People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)

We now proceed to the justification for and allowable scope of a “stop-and-frisk” as a “limited protective search of outer clothing for weapons,” as laid down in Terry, thus: We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others’ safety, he is entitled [to] the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him. Such a search is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. (Malacat v. Court of Appeals, 347 Phil.  462 [1997], cited in People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)

[Note: Other notable points of Terry are that while probable cause is not required to conduct a “stop and frisk,” it nevertheless holds that mere suspicion or a hunch will not validate a “stop and frisk.” A genuine reason must exist, in light of the police officer’s experience and surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person detained has weapons concealed about him. Finally, a “stop-and-frisk” serves a two-fold interest: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the police officer. (Malacat v. Court of Appeals, 347 Phil.  462 [1997], cited in People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)]

[Note: A valid stop-and-frisk was illustrated in the cases of Posadas v. CA (Posadas) (266 Phil. 306 [1990]), Manalili

v. CA (Manalili) (345 Phil. 632 [1997]), and People v. Solayao (Solayao) (330 Phil. 811 [1996]). 

In Posadas, two policemen were conducting a surveillance within the premises of the Rizal Memorial Colleges when they spotted the accused carrying a buri bag and acting suspiciously. They approached the accused and identified themselves as police officers. The accused attempted to flee but his attempt to get away was thwarted by the policemen who then checked the buri bag wherein they found guns, ammunition, and a grenade.

In Manalili, police officers were patrolling the Caloocan City cemetery when they chanced upon a man who had reddish eyes and was walking in a swaying manner. When this person tried to avoid the policemen, the latter approached him and introduced themselves as police officers. The policemen then asked what he was holding in his hands, but he tried to resist. 

In Solayao, police operatives were carrying out an intelligence patrol to verify reports on the presence of armed persons roaming around the barangays of Caibiran, Biliran. Later on, they met the group of accused-appellant. The police officers became suspicious when they observed that the men were drunk and that accused-appellant himself was wearing a camouflage uniform or a jungle suit. Upon seeing the government agents, accused-appellant’s companions fled. Thus, the police officers found justifiable reason to stop and frisk the accused. (People v. Comprado,

G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)]

[Note: On the other hand, the Court found no sufficient justification in the stop and frisk committed by the police in People v. Cogaed (Cogaed) (740 Phil. 212, 220-222 [2014]). In that case, the police officers received a message from an informant that one Marvin Buya would be transporting marijuana from Barangay Lun-Oy, San Gabriel, La Union, to the Poblacion of San Gabriel, La Union. A checkpoint was set up and when a passenger jeepney from Barangay Lun-Oy arrived at the checkpoint, the jeepney driver disembarked and signaled to the police officers that the two male passengers were carrying marijuana. SPOl Taracatac approached the two male passengers who were later identified as Victor Cogaed and Santiago Dayao. SPOl Taracatac asked Cogaed and Dayao what their bags contained. Cogaed and Dayao told SPO1 Taracatac that they did not know since they were transporting the bags as a favor for their barrio mate named Marvin. After this exchange, Cogaed opened the blue bag, revealing three bricks of what looked like marijuana. The Court, in that case, invalidated the search and seizure ruling that there were no suspicious circumstances that preceded the arrest. (People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)]

[Note: In the case at bar, accused-appellant was just a passenger carrying his bag. There is nothing suspicious much less criminal in said act. Moreover, such circumstance, by itself, could not have led the arresting officers to believe that accused-appellant was in possession of marijuana. (People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)]

[Note: Here, without the tip provided by the confidential informant, accused-appellant could not be said to have executed any overt act in the presence or within the view of the arresting officers which would indicate that he was committing the crime of illegal possession of marijuana. Neither did the arresting officers have personal knowledge of facts indicating that accused-appellant had just committed an offense. Again, without the tipped information, accusedappellant would just have been any other bus passenger who was minding his own business and eager to reach his destination. It must be remembered that warrantless arrests are mere exceptions to the constitutional right of a person against unreasonable searches and seizures, thus, they must be strictly construed against the government and its agents. While the campaign against proliferation of illegal drugs is indeed a noble objective, the same must be conducted in a manner which does not trample upon well-established constitutional rights. Truly, the end does not justify the means. (People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)]

The search in this case, however, could not be classified as a search of a moving vehicle. In this particular type of search, the vehicle is the target and not a specific person. Further, in search of a moving vehicle, the vehicle was intentionally used as a means to transport illegal items. It is worthy to note that the information relayed to the police officers was that a passenger of that particular bus was carrying marijuana such that when the police officers boarded the bus, they searched the bag of the person matching the description given by their informant and not the cargo or contents of the said bus. Moreover, in this case, it just so happened that the alleged drug courier was a bus passenger. To extend to such breadth the scope of searches on moving vehicles would open the floodgates to unbridled warrantless searches which can be conducted by the mere expedient of waiting for the target person to ride a motor vehicle, setting up a checkpoint along the route of that vehicle, and then stopping such vehicle when it arrives at the checkpoint in order to search the target person. (People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)

Any evidence obtained in violation of the right against unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. This exclusionary rule instructs that evidence obtained and confiscated on the occasion of such unreasonable searches and seizures are deemed tainted and should be excluded for being the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree. In other words, evidence obtained from unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible in evidence for any purpose in any proceeding. Without the confiscated marijuana, no evidence is left to convict accused-appellant. Thus, an acquittal is warranted, despite accused-appellant’s failure to object to the regularity of his arrest before arraignment. The legality of an arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the accused. A waiver of an illegal, warrantless arrest does not carry with it a waiver of the inadmissibility of evidence seized during an illegal warrantless arrest. (People v. Comprado, G.R. No. 213225, April 4, 2018)

The petition is partly meritorious. Search Warrant No. 10-11 was validly issued, but most of the items seized pursuant thereto are inadmissible in evidence, as they were neither particularly described in the warrant nor seized under the “plain view doctrine.” (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

At the outset, there is no merit to petitioners’ contention that the search warrant was applied for in connection with two unrelated offenses, i.e., kidnapping and murder, in violation of Section 4, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court which requires that such warrant must be issued in relation to one offense. 

Suffice it to state that where a person kidnapped is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention, there is only one special complex crime for which the last paragraph of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code provides the maximum penalty that shall be imposed, i.e., death. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No.

216922, April 18, 2018)

[Note: It is not amiss to add that a search warrant that covers several counts of a certain specific offense does not

violate the one-specific-offense rule.  (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)]

Contrary to petitioners’ submission, the search warrant issued by Judge Ong identified with particularity the place to be searched, namely; (1) the house of Jaylord Dimal and (2) the palay warehouse in the premises of the Felix Gumpal Compound at Ipil Junction, Echague, Isabela. xxx. A description of a place to be searched is sufficient if the officer with the warrant can ascertain and identify with reasonable effort the place intended, and distinguish it from other places in the community. A designation that points out the place to be searched to the exclusion of all others, and on inquiry unerringly leads the peace officers to it, satisfies the constitutional requirement of definiteness. To the Court’s view, the above-quoted search warrant sufficiently describes the place to be searched with manifest intention that the search be confined strictly to the place described. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

Meanwhile, a search warrant may be said to particularly describe the things to be seized (1) when the description therein is as specific as the circumstances will ordinarily allow; or (2) when the description expresses a conclusion of fact – not of law by which the warrant officer may be guided in making the search and seizure; (3) and when the things to be described are limited to those which bear direct relation to the offenses for which the warrant is being issued. The purpose for this requirement is to limit the articles to be seized only to those particularly described in the search warrant in order to leave the officers of the law with no discretion regarding what items they shall seize, to the end that no unreasonable searches and seizures will be committed. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

In Search Warrant No. 10-11, only two things were particularly described and sought to be seized in connection with the special complex crime of kidnapping with murder, namely: (1) blood-stained clothes of Gemma Eugenio consisting of a faded pink long sleeves jacket and a black t-shirt, and (2) a 0.9mm caliber pistol. Having no direct relation to the said crime, the 1,600 sacks of palay that were supposedly sold by the victims to Dimal and found in his warehouse, cannot be a proper subject of a search warrant because they do not fall under the personal properties stated under Section 3 of Rule 126, to wit: (a) subject of the offense; (b) stolen or embezzled and other proceeds or fruits of the offense; or (c) those used or intended to be used as the means of committing an offense, can be the proper subject of a search warrant. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

In fine, the CA committed no reversible error in upholding the denial of the Omnibus Motion to Quash because all the Constitutional and procedural requisites for the issuance of a search warrant are still present, namely: – (1) probable cause; (2) such probable cause must be determined personally by the judge;

(3) the judge must examine, in writing and under oath or affirmation, the complainant and the witnesses he or she may produce; (4) the applicant and the witnesses testify on the facts personally known to them; and(5) the warrant specifically describes the place to be searched and the things to be seized. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

Despite the fact that the issuance of Search Warrant No. 10-11 is valid, petitioners are correct that most items listed in the Return on the Search Warrant are inadmissible in evidence. Since only 2 items were particularly described on the face of the search warrant, namely: (1) the blood-stained clothes of Gemma Eugenio consisting of faded pink long sleeves jacket and black t-shirt; and (2) the 0.9 mm caliber pistol, the Court declares that only two articles under the Return on the Search Warrant are admissible in evidence as they could be the blood-stained clothes of Gemma subject of the warrant xxx. It bears stressing that the application for search warrant particularly described the victims’ blood-stained clothes as follows: (1) Rosemarie Pua’s green inner garment with black blazer and brownish pedal pants; (2) Lucio Pua’s black shorts and pink polo shirt; and (3) Gemma Eugenio’s maong pants, faded pink long sleeves jacket, and black striped t-shirt. Considering that only Gemma’s clothes were described in Search Warrant No. 10-11 as specific as the circumstances will allow, the Court is constrained to hold as inadequately described the blood-stained clothes of Lucio and Rosemarie. Without the aid of the applicant’s witnesses who are familiar with the victims’ personal belongings, any other warrant officer, like P/Insp. Macadangdang who served the search warrant, will surely be unable to identify the blood-stained clothes of Lucio and Rosemarie by sheer reliance on the face of such warrant.  (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

With respect to the items under Return on the Search Warrant indicated as “articles recovered/seized in plain view during the conduct of the search,” it is well settled that objects falling in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in a position to have that view are subject to seizure even without a search warrant and may be introduced in evidence.  (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

For the “plain view doctrine” to apply, it is required that the following requisites are present: (a) the law enforcement officer in search of the evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular area; (b) the discovery of evidence in plain view is inadvertent; and (c) it is immediately apparent to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to seizure. xxx. The first requisite of the “plain view doctrine” is present in this case because the seizing officer, P/Insp. Macadangdang, has a prior justification for an intrusion into the premises of the Felix Gumpal Compound, for he had to conduct the search pursuant to a valid warrant. However, the second and third requisites are absent, as there is nothing in the records to prove that the other items not particularly described in the search warrant were open to eye and hand, and that their discovery was unintentional.  (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

[Note: In fact, out of the 2 items particularly described in the search warrant, only the 2 black t-shirts with suspected blood stain possibly belonging to Gemma were retrieved, but the 9mm caliber pistol was not found. It is also not clear in this case at what instance were the items supposedly seized in plain view were confiscated in relation to the seizure of Gemma’s blood-stained clothes – whether prior to, contemporaneous with or subsequent to such seizure. Bearing in mind that, once the valid portion of the search warrant has been executed, the “plain view doctrine” can no longer provide any basis for admitting the other items subsequently found, the Court rules that the recovery of the items seized in plain view, which could have been made after the seizure of Gemma’s clothes, are invalid. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)]

Notwithstanding the inadmissibility in evidence of the items listed above, the Court sustains the validity of Search Warrant No. 10-11 and the admissibility of the items seized which were particularly described in the warrant. This is in line with the principles under American jurisprudence: (1) that the seizure of goods not described in the warrant does not render the whole seizure illegal, and the seizure is illegal only as to those things which was unlawful to seize; and (2) the fact that the officers, after making a legal search and seizure under the warrant, illegally made a search and seizure of other property not within the warrant does not invalidate the first search and seizure. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

To be sure, a search warrant is not a sweeping authority empowering a raiding party to undertake a fishing expedition to confiscate any and all kinds of evidence or articles relating to a crime. Objects taken which were not specified in the search warrant should be restored to the person from whom they were unlawfully seized. 

Although the Alien Certificates of Registration of Lucio and Rosemarie and the BDO Passbook in the name of Lucio are inadmissible in evidence, for not having been seized in accordance with the “plain view doctrine,” these personal belongings should be returned to the heirs of the respective victims. Anent the live ammo of caliber 0.22 (marked as E-29 with JAM markings), which could not have been used in a 0.9mm caliber pistol, the same shall remain in custodia legis pending the outcome of a criminal case that may be later filed against petitioner Dimal. In Alih v. Castro, it was held that even if the search of petitioners’ premises was violative of the Constitution and the firearms and ammunition taken therefrom are inadmissible in evidence, pending determination of the legality of said articles, they can be ordered to remain in custodia legis subject to appropriate disposition as the corresponding court may direct in the criminal proceedings that have been or may thereafter be filed against petitioners. (Dimal and Castillo v. People, G.R. No. 216922, April 18, 2018)

First of all, as to the argument of appellant Santa Maria that the arresting officers illegally arrested them because they did not have with them any warrant of arrest nor a search warrant considering that the police officers had enough time to secure such, the same does not deserve any merit. Buy-bust operations are legally sanctioned procedures for apprehending drug peddlers and distributors. These operations are often utilized by law enforcers for the purpose of trapping and capturing lawbreakers in the execution of their nefarious activities.  There is no textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. A prior surveillance, much less a lengthy one, is not necessary, especially where the police operatives are accompanied by their informant during the entrapment. Hence, the said buy-bust operation is a legitimate, valid entrapment operation. (People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 219953, April 23, 2018)

One of the recognized exceptions to the need [of] a warrant before a search may be [e]ffected is a search incidental to a lawful arrest.  In this instance, the law requires that there first be a lawful arrest before a search can be made – the process cannot be reversed. (Reyes v. People, G.R. No. 229380, June 6, 2018)

In warrantless arrests made pursuant to Section 5 (a), Rule 113, two (2) elements must concur, namely: (a) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (b) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer. On the other hand, Section 5 (b), Rule 113 requires for its application that at the time of the arrest, an offense had in fact just been committed and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of facts indicating that the accused had committed it. (Reyes v. People, G.R. No. 229380, June 6, 2018)

In both instances, the officer’s personal knowledge of the fact of the commission of an offense is essential. [The scenario under] Section 5 (a), Rule 113 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure [contemplates that] the officer himself witnesses the crime; while in Section 5 (b) of the same,

[the officer]

knows for a fact that a crime has just been committed.” 

Essentially, the validity of this warrantless arrest requires compliance with the overt act test, showing that “the accused xxx exhibit an overt act within the view of the police officers suggesting that

[she]

was in possession of illegal drugs at the time [she] was apprehended.” Absent any overt act showing the commission of a crime, the warrantless arrest is rendered invalid, as in a case where a person was apprehended for merely carrying a bag and traveling aboard a jeepney without acting suspiciously. Similarly, in People v. Racho, a search based solely on a tip describing one of the passengers of a bus was declared illegal, since at the time of apprehension, the said accused was not “committing a crime in the presence of the police officers,” nor did he commit a crime or was about to commit one. (Reyes v. People, G.R. No. 229380, June 6, 2018)

[Note: … the Court finds that no lawful arrest was made on Reyes. POI Monteras himself admitted that Reyes passed by them without acting suspiciously or doing anything wrong, except that she smelled of liquor. As no other overt act could be properly attributed to Reyes as to rouse suspicion in the mind of PO1 Monteras that she had just committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime, the arrest is bereft of any legal basis. As case law demonstrates, the act of walking while reeking of liquor per se cannot be considered a criminal act. (Reyes v. People, G.R.

No. 229380, June 6, 2018)]

In addition, the Court notes the inconsistencies in the claim of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that Reyes consented to the search when she voluntarily showed the sachet of shabu to the police officers. In their Comment, the OSG stated that at the time of arrest, Reyes was so intoxicated that she “simply let her senses down” and showed the shabu to PO1 Monteras; but later, in the same Comment, the OSG argued that Reyes was actually “in her right senses when she reminded the police officers” that they were not allowed to frisk a woman. These material inconsistencies clearly render suspect the search conducted on Reyes’s person and likewise, destroy the credibility of the police officers who testified against Reyes. In order to deem as valid a consensual search, it is required that the police authorities expressly ask, and in no uncertain terms, obtain the consent of the accused to be searched and the consent thereof established by clear and positive proof, which were not shown in this case. (Reyes v. People, G.R. No. 229380, June 6, 2018)

The version of P03 Saquibal is incredible. Given the distance of 10 meters, it is unbelievable that a very small or tiny plastic sachet can be seen being handed from one person to another. To be able to see the “white crystalline substance” with a weight of 0.02 gram inside such tiny plastic sachet is utterly impossible, unless one has “bionic eyes” or x-ray vision. Also, P03 Saquibal’ s testimony wherein he was able to identify from 10 meters that the P500-bill, which the civilian asset allegedly handed to Otico, was the same one previously marked at the police station means that he was able to either read the serial number of the bill or see the marking “MO” thereon. Of course, that is again impossible. (People v. Otico, G.R. No. 231133, June 6, 2018)

It is well-settled that the procedure in Section 21, Article II of RA 9165 is a matter of substantive law, and cannot be brushed aside as a simple procedural technicality. (Anyayahan v. People, G.R. No. 229787, June 20, 2018)

Right to Privacy

The prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure ultimately stems from a person’s right to privacy. Hence, only when the State intrudes into a person’s expectation of privacy, which society regards as reasonable, is the Fourth Amendment triggered. Conversely, where a person does not have an expectation of privacy or one’s expectation of privacy is not reasonable to society, the alleged State intrusion is not a “search” within the protection of the Fourth Amendment. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)

Indeed, the reasonableness of a person’s expectation of privacy must be determined on a case-to-case basis since it depends on the factual circumstances surrounding the case. Other factors such as customs, physical surroundings and practices of a particular activity may diminish this expectation. In Fortune Express, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, a common carrier was held civilly liable for the death of a passenger due to the hostile acts of armed men who boarded and subsequently seized the bus. The Court held that “simple precautionary measures to protect the safety of passengers, such as frisking passengers and inspecting their baggages, preferably with non-intrusive gadgets such as metal detectors, before allowing them on board could have been employed without violating the passenger’s constitutional rights.” In Costabella Corp. v. Court Appeals, a compulsory right of way was found improper for the failure of the owners of the dominant estate to allege that the passageway they sought to be re-opened was at a point least prejudicial to the owner of the servient estate. The Court thus explained, ”[c]onsidering that the petitioner operates a hotel and beach resort in its property, it must undeniably maintain a strict standard of security within its premises. Otherwise, the convenience, privacy, and safety of its clients and patrons would be compromised.” Similarly, shopping malls install metal detectors and body scanners, and require bag inspection as a requisite for entry. Needless to say, any security lapse on the part of the mall owner can compromise public safety. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)

Concededly, a bus, a hotel and beach resort, and a shopping mall are all private property whose owners have every right to exclude anyone from entering. At the same time, however, because these private premises are accessible to the public, the State, much like the owner, can impose non-intrusive security measures and filter those going in. The only difference in the imposition of security measures by an owner and the State is the former emanates from the attributes of ownership under Article 429 of the Civil Code, while the latter stems from the exercise of police power for the promotion of public safety. Necessarily, a person’s expectation of privacy is diminished whenever he or she enters private premises that are accessible to the public. (Saluday v. People, G.R. No. 215305, April 3, 2018)

Freedom of Expression

Petitioner was charged in an Information filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila, Branch 4, for the offense of Offending the Religious Feelings defined and penalized under Article 133 of the RPC. While Brother Edgar J. Tria Tirona was reading a passage from the Bible around 3 :00 p.m., petitioner entered the Manila Cathedral clad in a black suit and a hat.  Petitioner went to the center of the aisle, in front of the altar and suddenly brought out a placard emblazoned with the word “DAMASO.”     Commotion ensued when petitioner started   shouting   while   inside the   church saying   “Bishops, stop involving   yourself (sic) in politics,”   disrupting    and   showing disrespect to an otherwise solemn celebration. The defense, on the other hand, alleged that the incident did not happen during the celebration of the holy mass and nothing happened that disturbed the proceedings. The MeTC in its Decision   dated December 14, 2012, found petitioner guilty of the crime Offending Religious Feelings. Upon appeal to the RTC, the latter in its Decision affirmed petitioner’s conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed the findings of the MeTC and the RTC.

 The question of whether petitioner offended the religious feelings of those who were present during the celebration of the MTBC is a question of fact which will not be entertained in the present petition. (The People of the Philippines v. Jose M. Baes, 68 Phil. 203 [1939], cited in Celdran v. People, G.R. No. 220127, March 21, 2018)

[Note: Whether or not the act complained of is offensive to the religious feelings of the Catholics, is a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones, for it is possible that certain acts may offend the feelings of those who profess a certain religion, while not otherwise offensive to the feelings of those professing another faith. xxx. (The People of the Philippines v.

Jose M. Baes (68 Phil. 203 [1939])]

Freedom of Religion

To be sure, a good number of the Filipinos led by the Roman Catholic Church react adversely to any attempt to enact a law on absolute divorce, viewing it as contrary to our customs, morals, and traditions that has looked upon marriage and family as an institution and their nature of permanence, inviolability, and solidarity. However, none of our laws should be based on any religious law, doctrine, or teaching; otherwise, the separation of Church and State will be violated. (Republic v. Manalo, G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018)

The Roman Catholic Church can neither impose its beliefs and convictions on the State and the rest of the citizenry nor can it demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for the country. While marriage is considered a sacrament, it has civil and legal consequences which are governed by the Family Code.  It is in this aspect, bereft of any ecclesiastical overtone, that the State has a legitimate right and interest to regulate. (Republic v. Manalo, G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018)

Right to Travel

Thus, in Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc.  vs.  Hon. Franklin M Drilon, the Court upheld the validity of the Department Order No. 1, Series of 1988, issued by the Department of Labor and Employment, which temporarily suspended the deployment of domestic and household workers abroad. The measure was taken in response to escalating number of female workers abroad who were  subjected to exploitative working conditions, with some even reported physical and personal abuse.  The Court held that Department Order No. 1 is a valid implementation of the Labor Code, particularly, the policy to “afford protection to labor…”   Public safety considerations justified the restraint on the right to travel. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018, citing Phil. Association of Service Exporters v. Drilon, 163 SCRA 386)

[T]here… are only three considerations that may permit a restriction on the right to travel: national security, public safety or public health.  As a further requirement, there must be an explicit provision of statutory   law or the Rules of Court providing for the impairment.    The requirement for a legislative enactment was purposely added to prevent inordinate restraints on the person’s right to travel by administrative officials who may be tempted to wield authority under the guise of national security, public safety or public health.  This is in keeping with the principle that ours is a government of laws and not of men and also with the canon that provisions of law limiting the enjoyment of liberty should be construed against the government and in favor of the individual. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)

It is clear from the foregoing that the liberty of abode may only be impaired by a lawful order of the court and, on the one hand, the right to travel may only be impaired by a law that concerns national security, public safety or public health. Therefore, when the exigencies of times call for a limitation on the right to travel, the Congress must respond to the need by explicitly providing for the restriction in a law.  This is in deference to the primacy of the right to travel, being a constitutionally-protected right and not simply a statutory right, that it can only be curtailed by a legislative enactment. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)

[Note: Consistent with the foregoing, there must be an enabling law from which DOJ Circular No. 41 must derive its life.   Unfortunately, all of the supposed statutory authorities relied upon by the DOJ did not pass the completeness test and sufficient standard test.  The DOJ miserably failed to establish the existence of the enabling law that will justify the issuance of the questioned circular. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No.

199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)]

[Note: The DOJ therefore cannot justify the restraint in the liberty of movement   imposed by DOJ Circular No. 41 on the   ground that it is necessary to ensure presence and attendance in the preliminary investigation of the complaints. There is also no authority of law granting it the power to compel the attendance of the subjects of a preliminary investigation, pursuant to its investigatory powers under E.O. No. 292. Its investigatory power is simply inquisitorial   and, unfortunately, not broad enough to embrace the imposition of restraint on the liberty of movement.

(Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17,

2018)]

[Note: That there is a risk of flight does not authorize the DOJ to take the situation   upon itself and draft an administrative issuance to keep the individual within the Philippine jurisdiction so that he may not be able to evade criminal prosecution and consequent liability.   It is an arrogation of power it does not have; it is a usurpation of function that properly belongs to the legislature. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No.

199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)]

[Note: Without a law to justify its action, the issuance of DOJ Circular No. 41 is an unauthorized act of the DOJ of empowering itself under the pretext of dire exigency or urgent necessity. This action runs afoul the separation of powers between the three branches of the government and cannot be upheld. Even the Supreme Court, in the exercise of its power to promulgate rules is limited in that the same shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. This should have cautioned the DOJ, which is only one of the many agencies of the executive branch, to be more scrutinizing in its actions especially when they affect substantive rights, like the right to travel. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)]

The constitutional violations of DOJ Circular No. 41 are too gross to brush aside    particularly its assumption that the DOJ Secretary’s determination of the necessity of the issuance of HDO (Hold Departure Order) or WLO (Watchlist Order) can take the place of a law that authorizes the restraint in the right to travel only in the interest of national security, public safety or public health. The DOJ Secretary has recognized himself as the sole authority in the issuance and cancellation of HDO or WLO and in the determination of the sufficiency of the grounds for an ADO (Allow Departure Order).  The consequence is that the exercise of the right to travel of persons subject of preliminary investigation or criminal cases in court is indiscriminately subjected to the discretion of the DOI Secretary. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)

This is precisely the situation that the 1987 Constitution seeks to avoid–for an executive officer to impose restriction or exercise discretion that unreasonably impair an individual’s right to travel–thus, the addition of the phrase, “as maybe provided by law” in Section 6, Article III thereof. In Silverio, the Court underscored that this phraseology in the 1987 Constitution was a reaction to the ban on international travel imposed under the previous regime when there was a Travel Processing Center, which issued certificates of eligibility to travel upon application of an interested party. The qualifying phrase is not a mere innocuous appendage. It secures the individual the absolute and free exercise of his right to travel at all times unless the more paramount considerations of national security, public safety and public health call for a temporary interference, but always under the authority of a law. (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima,

G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)

[Note: By requiring an ADO before the subject of a HDO or WLO is allowed to leave the country, the only plausible conclusion that can be made is that its mere issuance operates as a restraint on the right to travel. To make it even more difficult, the individual will need to cite an exceptional reason to justify the granting of an ADO. (Genuino v.

de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)] 

It bears reiterating that the power to issue HDO is inherent to the courts. The courts may issue a HDO against an accused in a criminal case so that he may be dealt with in accordance with law. It does not require legislative conferment or constitutional recognition; it co-exists with the grant of judicial power.  (Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046,

April 17, 2018)

[Note: Courts possess certain inherent powers which may be said to be implied from a general grant of jurisdiction, in addition to those expressly conferred on them. These inherent powers are such   powers as are necessary for the ordinary and efficient exercise of jurisdiction; or essential to the existence, dignity and functions of the court, as well as to the due administration of justice; or are directly appropriate, convenient and suitable to the execution of their granted powers; and include the power to maintain the court’s jurisdiction and render it effective in behalf of the litigants.” (Defensor-Santiago v. Vasquez, G.R. Nos 99289-90, January 27, 1993, cited in Genuino v. de Lima,

G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)]

[Note: It is therefore by virtue of its administrative supervision over all courts and personnel that this Court came out with OCA Circular No.  49-2003, which provided for the guidelines that must be observed by employees of the judiciary seeking to travel abroad.  Specifically, they are required to secure a leave of absence for the purpose of foreign travel from this Court through the Chief Justice and the Chairmen of the Divisions, or from the Office of the Court Administrator, as the case maybe.  This is “to ensure management of court dockets and to avoid disruption in the administration of justice.” (Leave Division v. Heusdens, A.M. No. P-11-2927, December 13, 2011, cited in Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No. 197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)]

OCA Circular No.  49-2003 is therefore not a restriction, but more properly, a regulation of the employee’s leave for purpose of foreign travel which is necessary for the orderly administration of justice.  To “restrict” is to restrain or prohibit a person from doing something; to “regulate”   is to govern or direct according to rule. This regulation comes as a necessary consequence of the individual’s employment in the judiciary, as part and parcel of his contract in joining the institution. For, if the members of the judiciary are at liberty to go on leave any time, the dispensation of justice will be seriously hampered. Short of key personnel, the courts cannot properly function in the midst of the intricacies in the administration of justice. At any rate, the concerned employee is not prevented from pursuing his travel plans without complying with OCA Circular No. 49-2003 but he must be ready to suffer the consequences of his non-compliance. (Leave Division v. Heusdens, A.M. No. P-11-2927, December 13, 2011, cited in Genuino v. de Lima, G.R. No.

197930; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199034; Arroyo v. de Lima, G.R. No. 199046, April 17, 2018)

Custodial Investigation

The Court of Appeals emphasized that the prohibition against custodial investigation conducted without the assistance of counsel does not extend to a person in a police line-up. This particular stage of an investigation where a person is asked to stand in a police line-up has been held to be outside the mantle of protection of the right to counsel because it involves a general inquiry into an unsolved crime and is purely investigatory in nature. It has been held that identification without the presence of counsel at a police lineup does not preclude the admissibility of in-court identification. (People v. Golidan, G.R. No. 205307, January 11, 2018)

It is settled that for an extrajudicial confession to be admissible in evidence against the accused, the same “must be (a) voluntary, (b) made with the assistance of a competent and independent counsel, (c) express, and (d) in writing. xxx.” Moreover, Section 2 of Republic Act (RA) No. 7438 requires that “any person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall at all times be assisted by counsel.” (People v. Paris and Fernandez, G.R. No. 218130, February 14, 2018)

[Note: In this case, Fernandez was not assisted by counsel at all times during his custodial investigation. The records show that Fernandez was assisted by Atty. Francisco only during the time he executed his extrajudicial confession. However, no lawyer assisted Fernandez at the time he was arrested and brought to the police station to answer questions about the robbery with homicide. (People v. Paris and Fernandez, G.R. No. 218130, February 14, 2018)]

[Note: Moreover, we agree with the CA that Atty. Francisco was not an independent counsel. Atty. Francisco testified that he was a legal consultant in the Office of the Municipal Mayor of Binmaley. As such, his duty was to provide legal advice to the Mayor whose duty, in turn, is to execute the laws and ordinances and maintain peace and order in the municipality. To our mind, Atty. Francisco cannot be considered as an independent counsel since protecting the rights of Fernandez as a suspect is in direct conflict with his duty to the Municipal Mayor and the local government of the Municipality. We have held that a, lawyer who assists a suspect during custodial investigation should, as much as possible, be the choice of the suspect. It is also important that the lawyer who will assist the accused should be competent, independent and prepared to fully safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused, as distinguished from one who would merely be giving a routine, peremptory and meaningless recital of the individual’s constitutional rights. (People v. Paris and Fernandez, G.R. No. 218130, February 14, 2018)]

[Note: In this case, the Court finds that Atty. Francisco was not vigilant in protecting the rights of Fernandez during the course of the custodial investigation. Atty. Francisco allowed Fernandez to answer each question without reminding him that he can refuse to answer them and/or remain silent. Given these circumstances, Fernandez’s extrajudicial confession is inadmissible in evidence. (People v. Paris and Fernandez, G.R. No. 218130, February 14, 2018)]

[Note: Notwithstanding the inadmissibility of Fernandez’ extrajudicial confession, his conviction for the crime of robbery with homicide can still be obtained on the basis of circumstantial evidence. (People v. Paris and Fernandez, G.R.

No. 218130, February 14, 2018)]

The Court, however, agrees with the observation of the appellate court that even if the extra judicial confessions of his co-accused were disregarded, there is still sufficient evidence to convict Fajardo of the crime charged. The identification by an eyewitness of a suspect or accused as the perpetrator of the crime constitutes direct evidence thereof. Here, Tony was able to clearly, categorically, and steadfastly identify Fajardo as one of his abductors. Thus, his credible testimony alone would suffice as it is direct evidence against Fajardo; and even if the extrajudicial confessions were discarded, it would not be fatal to the prosecution because it would merely corroborate Tony’s testimony. (People v. Manzanero, G.R. No. 216065, April 18, 2018)

Right to Bail

The Court has judiciously explained in Atty. Serapio v. Sandiganbayan (444 Phil. 499 [2003]) the difference between the preliminary determination of the guilt of the accused in a petition for bail, and the proceedings during the trial proper, viz.: 

It must be borne in mind that in Ocampo vs. Bernabe, this Court held that in a petition for bail hearing, the court is to conduct only a summary hearing, meaning such brief and speedy method of receiving and considering the evidence of guilt as is practicable and consistent with the purpose of the hearing which is merely to determine the weight of evidence for purposes of bail. The court does not try the merits or enter into any inquiry as to the weight that ought to be given to the evidence against the accused, nor will it speculate on the outcome of the trial or on what further evidence may be offered therein. It may confine itself to receiving such evidence as has reference to substantial matters, avoiding unnecessary thoroughness in the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, and reducing to a reasonable minimum the amount of corroboration particularly on details that are not essential to the purpose of the hearing. 

A joint hearing of two separate petitions for bail by two accused will of course avoid duplication of time and effort of both the prosecution and the courts and minimizes the prejudice to the accused, especially so if both movants for bail are charged of having conspired in the commission of the same crime and the prosecution adduces essentially the same evident against them. However, in the cases at bar, the joinder of the hearings of the petition for bail of petitioner with the trial of the case against former President Joseph E. Estrada is an entirely different matter. For, with the participation of the former president in the hearing of petitioner’s petition for bail, the proceeding assumes a completely different dimension. The proceedings will no longer be summary. As against former President Joseph E. Estrada, the proceedings will be a full-blown trial which is antithetical to the nature of a bail hearing. xxx With the joinder of the hearing of petitioner’s petition for bail and the trial of the former President, the latter will have the right to cross-examine intensively and extensively the witnesses for the prosecution in opposition to the petition for bail of petitioner. If petitioner will adduce evidence in support of his petition after the prosecution shall have concluded its evidence, the former President may insist on crossexamining petitioner and his witnesses. The joinder of the hearing of petitioner’s bail petition with the trial of former President Joseph E. Estrada will be prejudicial to petitioner as it will unduly delay the determination of the issue of the right of petitioner to obtain provisional liberty and seek relief from this Court if his petition is denied by the respondent court. xxx.

The Court has previously discussed in our Decision dated November 7, 2017 that the trial court is required to conduct a hearing on the petition for bail whenever the accused is charged with a capital offense. While mandatory, the hearing may be summary and the trial court may deny the bail application on the basis of evidence less than that necessary to establish the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt. In this hearing, the trial court’s inquiry is limited to whether there is evident proof that the accused is guilty of the offense charged. This standard of proof is clearly different from that applied in a demurrer to evidence, which measures the prosecution’s entire evidence against the required moral certainty for the conviction of the accused.  (Napoles v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 224162, February 6, 2018)

[Note: The distinction between the required standards of proof precludes the application of Macapagal-Arroyo to the present case. The Sandiganbayan’s denial of the demurrer to evidence in Macapagal-Arroyo was annulled based on the paucity of the evidence of the prosecution, which failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that former President GMA was the mastermind of the conspiracy to commit plunder. In other words, there was a final determination of former President GMA’s innocence of the crime charged. 

This is not the case for Napoles. The issue that the Court resolved in its Decision dated November 7, 2017 was whether the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying Napoles’ application for bail. This involved a preliminary determination of her eligibility to provisional liberty. 

The resolution of this issue does not involve an inquiry as to whether there was proof beyond reasonable doubt that Napoles, or her co-accused as the case may be, was the main plunderer for whose benefit the ill-gotten wealth was amassed or accumulated. These are matters of defense best left to the discretion of the Sandiganbayan in the resolution of the criminal case. It was sufficient that the denial of her bail application was based on evidence establishing a great presumption of guilt on the part of Napoles.  (Napoles v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 224162, February 6, 2018)]

Section 17 (a) of Rule 114 of the Rules of Court, as amended by Administrative Circular No. 12-94 which governs the approval of bail bonds for criminal cases pending outside the judge’s territorial jurisdiction is instructive, to wit: 

Section 17. Bail, where filed. – (a) Bail in the amount fixed may be filed with the court where the case is pending, or in the absence or unavailability of the judge thereof, with any regional trial judge, metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge, or municipal circuit trial judge in the province, city, or municipality. If the accused is arrested in a province, city, or municipality other than where the case is pending, bail may also be filed with any Regional Trial Court of said place, or if no judge thereof is available, with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal trial judge, or municipal circuit trial judge therein. 

The foregoing provision anticipates two (2) situations. First, the accused is arrested in the same province, city or municipality where his case is pending. Second, the accused is arrested in the province, city or municipality other than where his case is pending. In the first situation, the accused may file bail in the court where his case is pending or, in the absence or unavailability of the judge thereof, with another branch of the same court within the province or city. In the second situation, the accused has two (2) options. First, he may file bail in the court where his case is pending or, second, he may file bail with any regional trial court in the province, city or municipality where he was arrested. When no regional trial court judge is available, he may file bail with any metropolitan trial judge, municipal judge or municipal circuit trial judge therein. (Altobano-Ruiz v. Pichay, A.M. No. MTJ-17-1893 [Formerly OCA LP.I. No. 15-2773-MTJ], February 19, 2018)

[Note: However, in the instant case, the case where Judge Pichay approved Paran’s bail bond and issued release order was not pending before his sala. As correctly pointed out by the OCA, although accused Paran was detained at the Station Detention Cell, Paranaque City Police Station, he was nevertheless arrested at his residence in Quezon City. Considering that Paran was arrested in Quezon City, he could also file his bail application before any branch at the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, and in the absence of any judge thereat, then before any branch of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City. Paran could have also filed his bail application before the MTCC, Trece Martires City, where his case was pending. 

Indeed, the only circumstance where Judge Pichay can exercise authority to rule on Paran’s bail application is if the latter, who was detained in Paranaque City, was not yet charged with a criminal offense in another court, pursuant to Section l7(c), Rule 114 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. However, in the instant case, there was already a pending criminal case against Paran before the MTCC, Trece Martires, Cavite as shown in the Certificate of Detention attached in Paran’s application of bail. In fact, Paran’s arrest was by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Mapili of the MTCC, Trece Martires City. More importantly, Judge Pichay likewise failed to prove that there was no available judge to act on Paran’s application of bail in the said respective courts. Clearly, Judge Pichay’s approval of Paran’s bail constituted an irregularity arising from his lack of the authority to do so. (Altobano-Ruiz v. Pichay, A.M. No. MTJ-171893 [Formerly OCA LP.I. No. 15-2773-MTJ], February 19, 2018)]

In addition, respondent Judge’s failure to conduct a hearing on accused’s Petition for Bail constitutes gross ignorance of the law. It is axiomatic that a bail hearing is a must, despite the prosecution’s lack of objection to the same. (Extra Excel International Philippines, Inc. v. Cajigal, G.R. No. A.M. No. RTJ-18-2523, June 6, 2018)

In short, while the petition for bail was filed with the OCC only on June 29, 2015, the application for bail and comment thereon by the City Prosecutor had been submitted to and considered by respondent on June 28, 2015 before he issued the order for the temporary release of the accused. There is nothing in the law or the rules that prevented respondent from acting on the bail application submitted to him on a weekend. Accordingly, respondent acted in accordance with the rules in granting the application for bail. (Rodriguez v. Noel, A.M. No. RTJ-18-2525, June 25, 2018)

Preliminary Investigations

 According to Section 1, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, a preliminary investigation is “an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial.” The investigation is advisedly called preliminary because it is yet to be followed by the trial proper in a court of law. The occasion is not for the full and exhaustive of the parties‟ evidence but for the presentation only of such evidence as may engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty of the offense. “The role and object of (a) preliminary investigation were to secure the innocent against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecutions, and to protect him from open and public accusation of crime, from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a public trial, and also to protect the State from useless and expensive prosecutions.” (Facilities, Incorporated v. Lopez, G.R. No. 208642, February 7, 2018) 

It must be recalled that the criminal case is still in the stage of preliminary investigation. Under Rule 112, Section 1 of the Rules of Court, a preliminary investigation is “an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial.” The investigation is advisedly called preliminary, because it is yet to be followed by the trial proper in a court of law. The occasion is not for the full and exhaustive display of the parties since the function of the investigating prosecutor is not to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused. (Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation v. Gidwani, G.R. No. 234616, June 20, 2018)

Presumption of Innocence

It is fundamental in the Constitution and basic in the Rules of Court that the accused in a criminal case enjoys the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Likewise, it is well-established in jurisprudence that the prosecution bears the burden to overcome such presumption. If the prosecution fails to discharge this burden, the accused deserves a judgment of acquittal. On the other hand, if the existence of proof beyond reasonable doubt is established by the prosecution, the accused gets a guilty verdict. In order to merit conviction, the prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of evidence presented by the defense. (People v. Hilario, G.R. No. 210610, January 11, 2018)

[Note: As the Court declared in Mallillin v. People (576 Phil. 576, 593 [2008]), the presumption of regularity is merely just that – a mere presumption disputable by contrary proof and which, when challenged by the evidence, cannot be regarded as binding truth. Suffice it to say that this presumption cannot preponderate over the presumption of innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt. The lack of conclusive identification of the illegal drugs allegedly seized from Hilario in this case strongly militates against a finding of guilt. (People v. Hilario, G.R. No. 210610, January 11, 2018)] 

It bears to stress that while an accused in a criminal case is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the evidence of the prosecution must stand on its own strength and not rely on the weakness of the evidence of the defense. The Court firmly holds that the prosecution was able to successfully discharge its burden of overcoming the constitutional presumption of innocence of Santos and in proving his guilt beyond reasonable doubt in Crim. Case Nos. C-82010 and C-82011. (People v. Zaragoza, G.R. No. 223142, January 17, 2018)

It must be emphasized that the finding of illicit drugs and paraphernalia in a house or building owned or occupied by a particular person raises the presumption of knowledge and possession thereof which, standing alone, is sufficient to convict. The truth that the strips of aluminum foil were found in the house of Santos and the marijuana in his body had not been successfully controverted by him. In fact, there was but the lame defense of frame-up offered by Santos to overcome the presumption. (People v. Zaragoza, G.R. No. 223142, January 17, 2018)

More often than not, where the alleged victim survives to tell her story of sexual depredation, rape cases are solely decided based on the credibility of the testimony of the private complainant. In doing so, we have hinged on the impression that no young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she has been sexually abused, unless that is the truth, for it is her natural instinct to protect her honor. However, this misconception, particularly in this day and age, not only puts the accused at an unfair disadvantage, but creates a travesty of justice. xxx. And while the factual setting back then would have been appropriate to say it is natural for a woman to be reluctant in disclosing a sexual assault; today, we simply cannot be stuck to the Maria Clara stereotype of a demure and reserved Filipino woman. We should stay away from such mindset and accept the realities of a woman’s dynamic role in society today; she who has over the years transformed into a strong and confidently intelligent and beautiful person, willing to fight for her rights. In this way, we can evaluate the testimony of a private complainant of rape without gender bias or cultural misconception. It is important to weed out these unnecessary notions because an accused may be convicted solely on the testimony of the victim, provided, of course, that the testimony is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Thus, in order for us to affirm a conviction for rape, we must believe beyond reasonable doubt the version of events narrated by the victim.  (People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, January 17, 2018)

[Note: The “women’s honor” doctrine surfaced in our jurisprudence sometime in 1960. In the case of People v. Tana (109 Phil. 912 [1960]), the Court affirmed the conviction of three (3) armed robbers who took turns raping a person named Herminigilda Domingo. The Court, speaking through Justice Alejo Labrador, said: It is a well-known fact that women, especially Filipinos, would not admit that they have been abused unless that abuse had actually happened. This is due to their natural instinct to protect their honor. We cannot believe that the offended party would have positively stated that intercourse took place unless it did actually take place. This opinion borders on the fallacy of non sequitor. (People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, January 17, 2018)]

[Note: Although Amarela or Racho did not raise consensual intercourse as a defense, We must bear in mind that the burden of proof is never shifted and the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits. Whether the accused’s defense has merit is entirely irrelevant in a criminal case. It is fundamental that the prosecution’s case cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. (People v. Amarela, G.R. No.

225642-43, January 17, 2018)]

[Note: Henceforth, we are constrained to reverse the RTC and the CA rulings due to the presence of lingering doubts which are inconsistent with the requirement of guilt beyond reasonable doubt as quantum of evidence to convict an accused in a criminal case. Amarela and Racho are entitled to an acquittal, as a matter of right, because the prosecution has failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. (People v. Amarela, G.R. Nos. 225642-43, January 17, 2018)]

Under these circumstances, we cannot apply the presumption of regularity of performance of official duty. The presumption may only arise when there is a showing that the apprehending officer/team followed the requirements of Section 21 or when the saving clause found in the IRR is successfully triggered. Judicial reliance on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty despite the lapses in the procedures undertaken by the agents of the law is fundamentally unsound because the lapses themselves are affirmative proofs of irregularity. More importantly, the presumption of regularity cannot prevail over the constitutional presumption of innocence and it cannot by itself constitute proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of regularity is just a mere presumption disputable by contrary proof. Without the presumption of regularity, the testimonies of the police witnesses must stand on their own merits and the defense cannot be hurdled having to dispute these testimonies. (People v. Ramirez and Lachica, G.R. No. 225690, January 17, 2018)

Given the flagrant procedural lapses committed by the police in handling the seized marijuana and the serious evidentiary gaps in the chain of its custody, the lower courts clearly misapplied the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties in the prosecution’s favor. After all, it is settled that a presumption of regularity cannot arise where the questioned official acts are patently irregular, as in this case. (People v. de Guzman, G.R. No. 219955, February 5 2018)

At the outset, it must be emphasized that “[t]he constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can only be overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt, that is, that degree of proof that produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. Hence, where the court entertains a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, it is not only the right of the accused to be freed; it is the court’s constitutional duty to acquit them.” (Gonzalez v. People, G.R. No. 225709, February 14, 2018)

The conviction of the accused must rest not on the weakness of the defense but on the strength of the prosecution. Conversely, as to his innocence, the accused has no burden of proof, that he must then be acquitted and set free should the prosecution not overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor. In other words, the weakness of the defense put up by the accused is inconsequential in the proceedings for as long as the prosecution has not discharged its burden of proof in establishing the commission of the crime charged. This is premised on the constitutional presumption that the accused is innocent unless his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. And it is precisely because of this presumption that the Court is required “as an appellate court to sift the records and search for every error, though unassigned in the appeal, in order to ensure that the conviction is warranted, and to correct every error that the lower court has committed in finding guilt against the accused.” In this instance, therefore, the Court is not limited to the assigned errors, but can consider and correct errors though unassigned, and even reverse the decision on grounds other than those the parties raised as errors. (People v. Alboka, G.R. No. 212195, February 21, 2018)

Verily, the presumption of regularity of performance of official duty stands only when no reason exists in the records by which to doubt the regularity of the performance of official duty. Applied to dangerous drugs cases, the prosecution cannot rely on the presumption when there is a showing that the apprehending officers failed to comply with the requirements laid down in Section 21. And, in any case, the presumption of regularity cannot be stronger than the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. Otherwise, a mere rule of evidence will defeat the constitutionally enshrined right to be presumed innocent. (People v. Luna, G.R. No. 219164, March 21, 2018; see People v. Supat, G.R. No. 217027, June 6, 2018; see also People v. Patricio, G.R. No.202129, July 23, 2018)

The lack of any justification tendered by the arresting officers for any lapses in the documentation of the chain of custody of confiscated dangerous drugs warrants the acquittal of the accused in a prosecution for the illegal sale of dangerous drugs on the ground of reasonable doubt. The accused has no burden to prove her innocence. (People v. Calates, G.R. No. 214759, April 4, 2018)

The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot work in favor of the law enforcers since the records reveal inexcusable lapses, which are affirmative proofs of irregularity, in observing the requisites of the law. The presumption may only arise when there is a showing that apprehending officer/team followed the requirements of Section 21 or when the saving clause is successfully triggered. In this case, the presumption of regularity, which is disputable by contrary proof, had been contradicted and overcome by evidence of non-compliance with the law. (People v. Mola, G.R. No.

226481, April 18, 2018)

The presumption of regularity cannot overcome the stronger presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. Otherwise, a mere rule of evidence will defeat the constitutionally enshrined right to be presumed innocent. Trial courts have been directed by the Court to apply this differentiation. (People v. Callejo, G.R. No. 227427, June 6, 2018)

Right to be Informed of the Nature and Cause of the Accusation

However, appellant can be convicted of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) in relation to Section 5 of Republic Act (RA) No. 7610, which was the offense proved though he was charged with rape through sexual intercourse in relation to RA 7610, applying the variance doctrine under Section 4 in relation to Section 5 of Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The crime of Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC in relation to Section 5 of RA 7610, which was the offense proved, is included in rape, the offense charged. (People v. Bejim, G.R. No. 208835, January 19, 2018)

Nonetheless, the Court agrees with the ruling of the CA that accused-appellant is guilty of the crime of acts of lasciviousness. Under the variance doctrine embodied in Section 4, in relation to Section 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure and affirmed by settled jurisprudence, even though the crime charged against the accused was for rape through carnal knowledge, he can be convicted of the crime of acts of lasciviousness without violating any of his constitutional rights because said crime is included in the crime of rape. (People v. Dagsa, G.R. No. 219889, January 29, 2018)

Finally, the Information should have alleged that the crime was committed inside the dwelling of the victims which was proven during the trial. We could not, therefore, consider this as an aggravating circumstance, although if alleged, it should have been admitted since the crime committed is robbery with violence and thus could have increased the penalty to death although it could not be imposed because of the provisions of RA 9346 and the accused could not be eligible for parole. However, as enunciated in People v. Jugueta citing People v. Catubig, the said aggravating circumstance can be appreciated but only for determining the civil liability awarded. Accordingly, the award of civil, moral, and exemplary damages should be increased to Pl00,000.00 each. (People v. Bongos, G.R. No. 227698, January 31, 2018)

It is clear from the above that the Section 15 does not apply when a person charged with violation of Section 15 Article II, RA 9165 on use of dangerous drugs, is also found to have possession of such quantity of drugs provided under Section 11 of the same law. This means that appellant may not be charged separately of violation of Section 11 on illegal possession of dangerous drugs and of Section 15 on use of dangerous drug since it is clear from the above that the provisions of Section 11 shall apply. Illegal possession of dangerous drugs absorbs the use of dangerous drugs. This is especially true in this case since appellant was not caught in the act of using drugs. Instead, he was caught in the act of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia. For this reason, the Court dismisses Criminal Case No. 14823-D against appellant on use of dangerous drugs as the same is absorbed by Section 11 on illegal possession of dangerous drugs. (People v. Galicia, G.R. No. 218402, February 14, 2018)

Moreover, it is settled that the designation of the offense is not controlling but the recital of the facts describing how the offense was committed. Here, the Informations in Criminal Case No. FC-00-782 and Criminal Case No. FC-00-783 clearly charged appellant with rape. Thus, he cannot claim denial of his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation and to fully defend himself. (People v. Nuyte, G.R. No. 219111, March 12, 2018)

The information (for violation of Section 15, Article II of R.A. No. 9165) xxx against respondent is straightforward: respondent “wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously used metamphetamine hydrochloride, otherwise known as shabu, which is a dangerous drug and found positive for use, after a confirmatory test.” The essential element, i.e., the accused was apprehended or arrested, was not specifically alleged. Moreover, nowhere in the information was Section 36 mentioned. Urging the inclusion of Section 36 in accusing the respondent of the crime will deprive the latter of the opportunity to prepare his defense and violate his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. An information must be complete, fully state the elements of the specific offense alleged to have been committed as an information is a recital of the essentials of a crime, delineating the nature and cause of the accusation against the accused. Convicting an accused of a ground not alleged while he is concentrating his defense against the ground alleged would plainly be unfair and underhanded. This appears to be petitioner‟s intention here and should not be condoned. (People v. PO1 Johnny K. Sullano,  G.R. No. 228373, March 12, 2018)

 [Note: In this case, the accused, who was subjected to a random urine test which yielded a positive result for the presence of metamphetamine, was charged with violating Section 15, Article II of R.A. No. 9165. His demurrer to evidence was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.]

At the heart of this petition is the question of whether Section 15, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 requires the apprehension or arrest of a person for the latter to be considered as violating the provision. Taking into consideration the text of the law itself, general criminal law principles, and previous judicial interpretation, the answer is in the affirmative, given the specific facts of the case. (People v. PO1 Johnny K. Sullano,  G.R. No. 228373, March 12, 2018)

[Note: Section 15. Use of Dangerous Drugs. – A person apprehended or arrested, who is found to be positive for use of any dangerous drug, after a confirmatory test, shall be imposed a penalty of a minimum of six (6) months rehabilitation in a government center for the first offense, subject to the provisions of Article VIII of this Act. If apprehended using any dangerous drug for the second time, he/she shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years and a fine ranging from Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) to Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00): Provided, That this Section shall not be applicable where the person tested is also found to have in his/her possession such quantity of any dangerous drug provided for under Section 11 of this Act, in which case the provisions stated therein shall apply. (R.A. No. 9165)]

The Court had previously ruled that an accused cannot be convicted of rape if the information charged him with rape through force, threat, or intimidation when what was proven was sexual congress with a woman deprived of reason, unconscious, or under twelve years of age. The conviction would be a deprivation of the constitutional right to be informed of the accusation against him. Nonetheless, in a more recent case, the Court held that even if the information lacked the allegation of any mental disability on the part of the victim, such allegation was unnecessary to convict the accused provided that sexual congress and mental incapacity, i.e. the incapacity to give consent, are proven by clear and convincing evidence. (People v. XXX, G.R. 229860, March 21, 2018)

While the Court affirms the RTC and the CA’s ruling of conviction, it cannot, however, subscribe to the penalty imposed upon Urmaza lest it runs afoul with the tenets of due process. Indeed, knowledge of the offender of the victim’s mental disability at the time of the commission of rape qualifies the crime and makes it punishable by death under Article 266-B, paragraph 10 of the RPC, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353. Nevertheless, it appears that the tribunals a quo lost sight of the precondition that an allegation in the Information of such knowledge of the offender is necessary, as a crime can only be qualified by circumstances pleaded in the indictment. A contrary ruling would result in denial of the right of the accused to be informed of the charges against him, and hence, a denial of due process. (People v. Urmaza, G.R. No.

219957, April 4, 2018)

In this case, the information for frustrated murder merely alleged the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation. However, a perusal of the shows that there was not even an attempt on the part of the prosecution to prove evident premeditation. The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses merely proved abuse of superior strength which, however, was not alleged in the information. As such, in the absence of any other qualifying circumstance in the information for Criminal Case No. L-6576, the charge against accused-appellants must be downgraded to homicide. (People v. Aquino, G.R. No. 203435, April 11, 2018)

Thus, the Court, in Quimvel, observed that although the Information therein did not contain the words “coercion or influence” (as it instead used the phrase “through force and intimidation”), the accused may still be convicted under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610. Further, following the rules on the sufficiency of an Information, the Court held that the Information need not even mention the exact phrase “exploited in prostitution or subjected to other abuse” for the accused to be convicted under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610; it was enough for the Information to have alleged that the offense was committed by means of “force and intimidation” for the prosecution of an accused for violation of Section 5 (b) of RA 7610 to prosper. (People v. Ejercito, G.R. No. 229861, July 2, 2018, citing Quimvel v. People, G.R. No. 214497, April 18, 2017)

Right to a Speedy Trial

Indeed, the Constitution guarantees in the Bill of Rights, Article III, Section 14(2) that: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused xxx shall enjoy the right xxx to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial xxx” and in Article III, Section 16 that: “All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.” Congress has also enacted in February 12, 1998 Republic Act No. (RA) 8493, otherwise known as the “Speedy Trial Act of 1998.” For its part, the Court promulgated Circular No. 38-98 on August 11, 1998 for the purpose of implementing the provisions of RA 8493. The provisions of the Circular were adopted in the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)

The right to speedy disposition of one’s case, similar to the right to speedy trial, may be waived. The Court in Nepomuceno v. The Secretary of National Defense (195 Phil. 467 [1981]) observed that the right to speedy trial as any other constitutionally or statutory conferred right, except when otherwise expressly so provided by law, may be waived. Therefore, it must be asserted. The assertion of such right is entitled to strong evidentiary weight in determining whether the accused is being deprived thereof such that the failure to claim the right will make it difficult to prove that there was a denial of a speedy trial. The accused’s failure to timely question the delay would be an implied acceptance of such delay and a waiver of the right to question the same. Also, his silence may amount to laches. (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)

[Note: It took the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor more than eight years from the filing of the complaints to dismiss without prejudice the complaints. The issue on venue in libel cases is neither a novel nor difficult one. The more than eight years it took the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor to resolve a rather routine issue is clearly inordinate, unreasonable and unjustified. Under the circumstances, it cannot be said “that there was no more delay than is reasonably attributable to the ordinary processes of justice.” (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)]

[Note: Furthermore, the silence of the accused during such period could not be viewed as an unequivocal act of waiver of their right to speedy determination of their cases. That the accused could have filed a motion for early resolution of their cases is immaterial. The more than eight years delay the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor incurred before issuing his resolution of the complaints is an affront to a reasonable dispensation of justice and such delay could only be perpetrated in a vexatious, capricious and oppressive manner. (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)]

To determine whether accused-appellant’s right to speedy trial was violated, “four factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for the delay; (c) the defendant’s assertion of his right; and (d) prejudice to the defendant.” (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018)

[Note: It is incumbent upon the State and the private complainants, where applicable, to exert reasonable efforts to prosecute the case, especially in cases where the accused is incarcerated. The Court understands that there are instances of delay in the ordinary course of the trial, but the delay here shows that the prosecution and the private complainants failed to exert the reasonable efforts to even present any evidence. The reason for their failure is likewise unsubstantiated. (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018)]

[Note: Here, on February 7, 2007, when the prosecution failed to present any evidence during the four trial dates given to it, accused-appellant moved for the dismissal of the cases, which was granted by the RTC. Accused-appellant also raised this as an issue on appeal with the CA. In fact, as early as August 2006, accused-appellant had already raised his right to a speedy trial when he moved for the cases to be re-raffled because of the delay in the conduct of the pre-trial conference. Given the foregoing, the Court is of the considered belief that accused-appellant had indeed asserted his right to a speedy trial. (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018)]

[Note: Accused-appellant was therefore prejudiced when the prosecution failed to present its evidence during all the settings that were given to it. Every day spent in jail is oppressive, more so when the reason for the prolongation of incarceration is the prosecution’s unreasonable motions for postponement. (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018)]

Right to an Impartial Trial

It is clear that Judge Dumayas failed to hear and decide the subject case with the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. As aptly found by the OCA after its exhaustive investigation, first, Judge Dumayas downgraded the offense charged from murder to homicide. Second, he inappropriately appreciated the privileged mitigating circumstance of self-defense and the ordinary mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender despite the overwhelming testimonial and physical evidence to the contrary. Third, he sentenced Dela Paz and Datu III to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years, two (2) months, and one (1) day, as minimum, to six (6) years of prision correccional, as maximum, which made them eligible for probation. Finally, he granted the separate applications for probation of Dela Paz and Datu III, effectively sparing them from suffering the penalties they rightfully deserve. The pattern of said acts appears to be deliberate, calculated, and meant to unduly favor the accused, and at the same time, can be characterized as flagrant and indifferent to the consequences caused to the other parties, including the State. (Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Dumayas, A.M. No. RTJ-15-2435, March 6, 2018)

[Note: Under Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, impartiality applies not only to the decision itself, but also to the process by which the decision is made. When Judge Dumayas chose to simply ignore all the evidence showing that the accused still pursued Anikow after the latter had already run away, not even bothering to explain the irrelevance or lack of weight of the same, such act necessarily put the integrity of his entire Decision in question. (Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Dumayas, A.M. No. RTJ-15-2435, March 6, 2018; see also Anonymous v. Judge Buyucan, A.M. No. MTJ-16-1879, July 24, 2018)]

Right to Confront Witnesses

The death of the state witness prior to trial proper will not automatically render his testimony during the discharge proceeding inadmissible. (People v. Dominguez, G.R. No. 229420, February 19, 2018; see Rules of Court, Rule 119, Section 17, which provides, in part, that “Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence.”) 

The rule is explicit that the testimony of the witness during the discharge proceeding will only be inadmissible if the court denies the motion to discharge the accused as a state witness. However, the motion hearing in this case had already concluded and the motion for discharge, approved. Thus, whatever transpired during the hearing is already automatically deemed part of the records of Criminal Case No. Q11-168431 and admissible in evidence pursuant to the rule. (People v. Dominguez, G.R. No. 229420, February 19, 2018)

One of the most basic rights of an accused person under our justice system is the right to confront the witnesses against him face to face. Subsumed under this right of confrontation is the right to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution. And as the Court has elucidated in People v. Seneris (No. L-48883, August 6, 1980, 99 SCRA 92) (Seneris), the right, though fundamental, may be waived expressly or impliedly by conduct amounting to a renunciation of the same. xxx. 

Here, respondents have to realize that their option to not ask for a continuance and reserve the right to continue with their line of questioning for trial proper instead carried inherent risks, including their present predicament. Respondents ought to have been aware that their decision would pave the way not only for the termination of the discharge proceedings, but also for the eventual application of the last paragraph of Section 17, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court should the RTC resolve to discharge Mendiola as a state witness, as it in fact did. The assumption of the risk, to Our mind, amounted to a waiver of any objection as to the admissibility of Mendiola’s testimony during the discharge hearing. 

Furthermore, Seneris elucidates that the testimony of the deceased prosecution witness shall not be expunged from the records if the defense was able to conduct a rigorous and extensive cross-examination prior to the witness’ demise. (People v. Dominguez, G.R. No. 229420, February 19, 2018)

[Note: In the case at bar, the records disclose that Mendiola was cross-examined at length for his testimony by the counsels of Miranda and the Dominguez brothers. More, such cross-examination already covered the details of the commission of the offense xxx. Respondents’ reservation for trial proper of the right to further cross-examine Mendiola did not diminish the sufficiency of the opportunity that they were given to confront the adverse witnesses. Notwithstanding the said reservation, Mendiola’s testimonies and admissions as regards the particulars of the crime already formed part of the records of the case when the RTC granted his motion to be declared a state witness. Respondents’ constitutional rights were not violated since the fair hearing envisaged by criminal due process had been complied with when the counsels for the respondents conducted a rigorous and exhaustive cross-examination of the deceased witness during the discharge hearing. (People v. Dominguez, G.R. No. 229420, February 19, 2018)]

“To meet the witnesses face to face” is the right of confrontation. Subsumed in this right to confront is the right of an accused to cross-examine the witnesses against him or her, i.e., to propound questions on matters stated during direct examination, or connected with it. The cross-examination may be done “with sufficient fullness and freedom to test [the witness’] accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias, or the reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue.” (Kim Liong v. People, G.R. No.

200630, June 4, 2018)

Denying an accused the right to cross-examine will render the testimony of the witness incomplete and inadmissible in evidence. “[W]hen cross-examination is not and cannot be done or completed due to causes attributable to the party offering the witness, the uncompleted testimony is thereby rendered incompetent.” (Kim Liong v. People, G.R. No. 200630, June 4, 2018)

However, like any right, the right to cross-examine may be waived. It “is a personal one which may be waived expressly or impliedly by conduct amounting to a renunciation of the right of cross-examination.” When an accused is given the opportunity to cross-examine a witness but fails to avail of it, the accused shall be deemed to have waived this right. The witness’ testimony given during direct examination will remain on record. If this testimony is used against the accused, there will be no violation of the right of confrontation. (Kim Liong v. People, G.R. No. 200630, June 4, 2018)

[Note: When the accused abuses its option to choose his counsel as in this case, he can be deemed to have waived his right to confrontation and cross-examination. The pattern of postponements and changes of counsel in this case is so obvious and patent. Petitioner should have been dissuaded by any of the lawyers, unless they, too, connived in such an amateurish strategy, which wastes the time and resources of our judicial system. All told, Presiding Judge Morallos did not gravely abuse his discretion in deeming as waived petitioner’s right to cross-examine prosecution witness Dela Rama. The Court of Appeals correctly denied petitioner’s Petition for Certiorari. Dela Rama’s testimony given during direct examination shall remain on record. We sustain both courts. (Kim Liong v. People, G.R. No. 200630, June 4, 2018)]

Nevertheless, while Alex’s statement does not qualify as a dying declaration, the same may still be admitted as an exception to the hearsay rule for being part of res gestae. (People v. Badillos, G.R. No. 215732, June 6, 2018)

Habeas Corpus

Congressional check on the President’s martial law and suspension powers thus consists of: First. The power to review the President’s proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and to revoke such proclamation or suspension. The review is “automatic in the sense that it may be activated by Congress itself at any time after the proclamation or suspension is made.” The Congress’ decision to revoke the proclamation or suspension cannot be set aside by the President. Second. The power to approve any extension of the proclamation or suspension, upon the President’s initiative, for such period as it may determine, if the invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

When approved by the Congress, the extension of the proclamation or suspension, as described during the deliberations on the 1987 Constitution, becomes a “joint executive and legislative act” or a “collective judgment” between the President and the Congress xxx. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

The provision is indisputably silent as to how many times the Congress, upon the initiative of the President, may extend the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus. Such silence, however, should not be construed as a vacuum, flaw or deficiency in the provision. While it does not specify the number of times that the Congress is allowed to approve an extension of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Section 18, Article VII is clear that the only limitations to the exercise of the congressional authority to extend such proclamation or suspension are that the extension should be upon the President’s initiative; that it should be grounded on the persistence of the invasion or rebellion and the demands of public safety; and that it is subject to the Court’s review of the sufficiency of its factual basis upon the petition of any citizen. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

Section 18, Article VII did not also fix the period of the extension of the proclamation and suspension. However, it clearly gave the Congress the authority to decide on its duration; thus, the provision states that the extension shall be “for a period to be determined by the Congress.” If it were the intention of the framers of the Constitution to limit the extension to sixty (60) days, as petitioners in G.R. No. 235935 theorize, they would not have expressly vested in the Congress the power to fix its duration. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

In any event, seeking the concurrence of the Congress to use martial law to quell the NPA’s rebellion, instead of issuing a new martial law proclamation for the same purpose, appears to be more in keeping with the Constitution’s aim of preventing the concentration of the martial law power in the President. The extension granted by the Congress upon the President’s request has become a joint action or a “collective judgment” between the Executive and the Legislature, thereby satisfying one of the fundamental safeguards established under Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

The information upon which the extension of martial law or of the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall be based principally emanate from and are in the possession of the Executive Department. Thus, “the Court will have to rely on the fact-finding capabilities of the [E]xecutive [D]epartment; in turn, the Executive Department will have to open its findings to the scrutiny of the Court.”

(Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

The requirement of the Constitution is therefore adequately met when there is sufficient factual basis to hold that the present and past acts constituting the actual rebellion are of such character that endanger and will endanger public safety. This permissive approach is sanctioned not only by an acknowledgment that the Congress is and should be allowed flexibility but also because the Court is without the luxury of time to determine accuracy and precision. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

The determination of which among the Constitutionally given military powers should be exercised in a given set of factual circumstances is a prerogative of the President. The Court’s power of review, as provided under Section 18, Article VII, does not empower the Court to advise, nor dictate its own judgment upon the President, as to which and how these military powers should be exercised. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

Martial law is a law of necessity. “Necessity creates the conditions for martial law and at the same time limits the scope of martial law.” Thus, when the need for which Proclamation No. 216 was further extended no longer exists, the President can lift the martial law imposition even before the end of the one-year period. Under the same circumstances, the Congress itself may pass a resolution pre-terminating the extension. This power emanates from Congress‟ authority, granted under the Constitution, to approve the extension and to fix its duration. The power to determine the period of the extension necessarily includes the power to shorten it. Furthermore, considering that this Court’s judgment on the constitutionality of an extension is “transitory,” or “valid at that certain point of time,” any citizen may petition the Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis for its continued implementation should the President and the Congress fail or refuse to lift the imposition of martial law. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)

[Note: Human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of martial law and suspension powers cannot by any measure be condoned. The Court lauds petitioners’ vigilance to make sure that the abuses of the past are not repeated and perceived abuses of the present will not go unnoticed. However, as the Court settled in Lagman, alleged human rights violations committed during the implementation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should be resolved in a separate proceeding. It, thus, bears noting some of the remedies, requirements and penalties imposed under existing laws, meant to address abuses by arresting or investigating public officers. xxx.

“Moreover, petitioners’ contention in G.R. No. 147780 (Lacson Petition), 147781 (Defensor-Santiago Petition), and 147799 (Lumbao Petition) that they are under imminent danger of being arrested without warrant do not justify their resort to the extraordinary remedies of mandamus and prohibition, since an individual subject to warrantless arrest is not without adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law. Such an individual may ask for a preliminary investigation under Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, where he may adduce evidence in his defense, or he may submit himself to inquest proceedings to determine whether or not he should remain under custody and correspondingly be charged in court. xxx Should the detention be without legal ground, the person arrested can charge the arresting officer with arbitrary detention. All this is without prejudice to his filing an action for damages against the arresting officer under Article 32 of the Civil Code. Verily, petitioners have a surfeit of other remedies which they can avail themselves of, thereby making the prayer for prohibition and mandamus improper at this time (Sections 2 and 3, Rule 65, Rules of Court). (Lacson v. Perez, G.R. No. 147780, May 10, 2001, 357 SCRA 756)

R.A. No. 7438, which defines the rights of persons arrested, detained or under investigation, imposes xxx penalties on errant arresting or investigating officers xxx.

R.A. No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 [:] rebellion may be subsumed in the crime of terrorism; it is one of the means by which terrorism can be committed. R.A. No. 9372 imposes specific penalties for failure of the law enforcement personnel to deliver the suspect to the proper judicial authority within the prescribed period, for violating the rights of the detainee, and for using torture in the interrogation or investigation of a detainee, xxx.

R.A. No. 9372 (Section 55) also gave the Commission on Human Rights the following authority and duty xxx [:] “give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons in relation to the implementation of this Act; and for this purpose, the Commission shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers, and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of persons suspected of, or detained for the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.” 

R.A. No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 provides that: “Torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as criminal acts shall apply to all circumstances. A state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, or a document or any determination comprising an ‘order of battle’ shall not and can never be invoked as a justification for torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

The same law also expressly prohibits secret detention places, solitary confinement, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention, where torture may be carried out with impunity. For this purpose, it requires the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies concerned to make an updated list of all detention centers and facilities under their respective jurisdictions with the corresponding data on the prisoners or detainees incarcerated or detained therein such as, among others, names, date of arrest and incarceration, and the crime or offense committed. The list is to be made available to the public at all times. 

R.A. No. 9745 likewise defined the xxx rights of a torture victim in the institution of a criminal complaint for torture xxx. It further imposes xxx penalties on perpetrators of torture as defined therein xxx. 

This Court has likewise promulgated rules aimed at enforcing human rights. In A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC, this Court made available the remedy of a writ of amparo to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity. Similarly, in A.M. No. 08-1-16-SC, this Court also crafted the rule on the writ of habeas data to provide a remedy for any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party. 

It also bears to note that the Philippines, is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is embodied in the International Bill of Human Rights. As such, it recognizes that everyone has the right to liberty and security of one’s person. That no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention; or that no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law, are just among the thirty (30) articles, mentioned in the UDHR setting forth the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any discrimination. (Lagman v. Senate President, G.R. No. 235935, February 6, 2018)]

Kidnapping should never be part of the functions of a soldier. It cannot be done in a soldier’s official capacity. If a soldier nonetheless proceeds allegedly on the orders of a superior officer, the soldier shall be tried before the civil courts. The remedy of habeas corpus, on the argument that only courts-martial have jurisdiction over members of the Armed Forces, will not lie. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)

[Note: Republic Act No. 7055, Section 1 provides that if the accused is a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the crime involved is one punished under the Revised Penal Code, civil courts shall have the authority to hear, try, and decide the case xxx. Under this Section, the only time courts-martial may assume jurisdiction is if, before arraignment, the civil court determines that the offense is “service-connected.” These service-connected offenses are found in Articles 54 to 70, Articles 72 to 92, and Articles 95 to 97 of the Articles of War, xxx.  (Osorio v. Navera, G.R.

No. 223272, February 26, 2018)]

[Note: SSgt. Osorio was charged with kidnapping, a crime punishable under Article 267 of the Revised Penal

Code. Applying Republic Act No. 7055, Section 1, the case shall be tried by a civil court, specifically by the Regional Trial Court, which has jurisdiction over the crime of kidnapping. The processes which the trial court issued, therefore, were valid. 

Contrary to SSgt. Osorio’s claim, the offense he committed was not service-connected. The case filed against him is none of those enumerated under Articles 54 to 70, Articles 72 to 92, and Articles 95 to 97 of the Articles of War. 

Further, kidnapping is not part of the functions of a soldier. Even if a public officer has the legal duty to detain a person, the public officer must be able to show the existence of legal grounds for the detention. Without these legal grounds, the public officer is deemed to have acted in a private capacity and is considered a “private individual.” The public officer becomes liable for kidnapping and serious illegal detention punishable by reclusion perpetua, not with arbitrary detention punished with significantly lower penalties. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)]

The “great writ of liberty” of habeas corpus “was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom.” Habeas corpus is an extraordinary, summary, and equitable writ, consistent with the law’s “zealous regard for personal liberty.” Its primary purpose “is to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal. Any restraint which will preclude freedom of action is sufficient.” (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)

The restraint of liberty need not be confined to any offense so as to entitle a person to the writ. Habeas corpus may be availed of as a post-conviction remedy or when there is an alleged violation of the liberty of abode. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)

However, a writ of habeas corpus may no longer be issued if the person allegedly deprived of liberty is restrained under a lawful process or order of the court. The restraint then has become legal. Therefore, the remedy of habeas corpus is rendered moot and academic. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)

If an accused is confined under a lawful process or order of the court, the proper remedy is to pursue the orderly course of trial and exhaust the usual remedies. This ordinary remedy is to file a motion to quash the information or the warrant of arrest based on one or more of the grounds enumerated in Rule 117, Section 3 of the Rules of Court xxx. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)

[Note: All told, the arrest warrants against SSgt. Osorio were issued by the court that has jurisdiction over the offense charged. SSgt. Osorio’s restraint has become legal; hence, the remedy of habeas corpus is already moot and academic. SSgt. Osorio’s proper remedy is to pursue the orderly course of trial and exhaust the usual remedies, the first of which would be a motion to quash, filed before arraignment, on the following grounds: the facts charged do not constitute an offense; the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged; and the officer who filed the information had no authority to do so. (Osorio v. Navera, G.R. No. 223272, February 26, 2018)]

Speedy Disposition of Cases

It took the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor more than eight years from the filing of the complaints to dismiss without prejudice the complaints. The issue on venue in libel cases is neither a novel nor difficult one. The more than eight years it took the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor to resolve a rather routine issue is clearly inordinate, unreasonable and unjustified. Under the circumstances, it cannot be said “that there was no more delay than is reasonably attributable to the ordinary processes of justice. Furthermore, the silence of the accused during such period could not be viewed as an unequivocal act of waiver of their right to speedy determination of their cases.” (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)

All told, the CA erroneously denied the accused’s petitions questioning the denial by the RTC Manila, Br. 36 and Br. 37 of their motions to dismiss based on their right to speedy disposition of their cases. Since the dismissal of the complaints against the accused is warranted because of the violation of their right to speedy disposition of their cases, the Court’s finding that the second petition has merit is rendered superfluous. (People v. Macasaet, G.R. Nos. 196094/196720, March 5, 2018)

Thus, the doctrinal rule is that in the determination of whether that right has been violated, the factors that may be considered and balanced are as follows: (1) the length of delay; (2) the reason/s for the delay; (3) the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and (4) the prejudice caused by the delay.

In this case, the court a quo‘s sweeping conclusion that it took the OMB seven years from the filing of the First Complaint in 2008 before the complaints were filed with the court and that as such, respondents Gamos and Gile were subjected to uncertainty with regard to their cases, was not well-taken.

A careful review of the series of events and the circumstances surrounding the proceedings before the OMB would show that there was, in fact, no delay contemplated under the Constitution to support respondent Gamos and Gile’s assertion that their right to speedy disposition of the cases against them were violated. (People v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 232197-98, April 16, 2018)

Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 3-90 requires all trial courts to adopt the mandatory continuous trial system pursuant to Administrative Circular No. 4 and Circular No. 1-89. (Chavez v. Marcos, G.R. No. 185484, June 27, 2018)

Right Against Self-Incrimination

It also claims that the DENR-PAB simply entered the former’s premises and unilaterally conducted an inspection and thereafter assessed excessive fines without first conducting conferences or a trial. xxx. As for the inspection, the EMB-NCR was only performing its mandated duty under R.A. 9275 and the IRR thereof when it inspected the premises of the Guadalupe Commercial Complex. Clearly, the EMB had legal authority when it conducted the inspection. (Republic v. N. de la Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)

Penalties

Another reason which militates against petitioner’s position is the lack of provision pertaining to subsidiary imprisonment in the judgment of conviction. xxx. Indeed, Administrative Circular No. 13-2001 provides that “should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provisions on subsidiary imprisonment.” However, the Circular does not sanction indiscriminate imposition of subsidiary imprisonment for the same must still comply with the law. Here, the judgment of conviction did not provide subsidiary imprisonment in case of failure to pay the penalty of fine. Thus, subsidiary imprisonment may not be imposed without violating the RPC and the constitutional provision on due process. (People v. Alapan, G.R. No. 199527, January 10, 2018; see People v. Fajardo, 65 Phil. 539 [1938])

In her present petition for review on certiorari, Visitacion no longer questions her conviction for the crime of libel. Rather, she assails the decisions of the courts a quo in sentencing her to one (1) year imprisonment and to pay Punongbayan 3,000,000.00 as moral damages.

Relevant is Administrative Circular (A. C.) No. 08-08which provides for guidelines in the imposition of penalties in libel cases. The pertinent portion thereof reads: 

The foregoing cases indicate an emergent rule of preference for the imposition of fine only rather than imprisonment in libel cases under the circumstances therein specified.

All courts and judges concerned should henceforth take note of the foregoing rule of preference set by the Supreme Court on the matter of the imposition of penalties for the crime of libel bearing in mind the following principles:

  1. This Administrative Circular does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for the crime of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice;
  • Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provisions on subsidiary imprisonment.

A review of A.C. No. 08-08 reveals that it was issued to embody the Court’s preference, as espoused in previous jurisprudence, to impose only a fine for conviction of libel. The said circular, however, does not remove the discretion of courts to sentence to imprisonment the accused in libel cases should the circumstances warrant. In other words, judicial policy states a fine alone is generally acceptable as a penalty for libel. Nevertheless, the courts may impose imprisonment as a penalty if, under the circumstances, a fine is insufficient to meet the demands of substantial justice or would depreciate the seriousness of the offense. (Punongbayan-Visitacio v. People, G.R. No. 194214, January 10, 2018)

[Note: Thus, pursuant to the policy in A.C. No. 08-08, the Court finds that the imposition of a fine, instead of imprisonment, is sufficient in the present case. It is noteworthy that Visitacion is a first-time offender with no other criminal record under her name. Further, the degree of publication is not that widespread considering that the libelous letter was circulated only to a few individuals. (Punongbayan-Visitacio v. People, G.R. No. 194214, January 10, 2018)]

The crime was committed prior to the effectivity of Republic Act (RA) No. 7659, during the suspension of the death penalty. Before RA No. 7659 took effect on December 31, 1993 reimposing the death penalty, the penalty for murder was reclusion temporal, in its maximum period, to death. Since the crime in this case was not attended by the generic aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, and the mitigating circumstance analogous to voluntary surrender is credited in accused-appellant’s favor, the minimum penalty for murder, i.e., reclusion temporal in its maximum period, shall be imposed pursuant to

Article 64(2) of the Revised Penal Code. (People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 224498, January 11, 2018) 

At the outset, Dela Merced & Sons’ invocation of Article III, Section 19(1) of the Constitution is erroneous. The constitutional prohibition on the imposition of excessive fines applies only to criminal prosecutions. In contrast, this case involves an administrative proceeding and, contrary to the supposition of Dela Merced & Sons, the fine imposed is not a criminal penalty. Hence, the proscription under Article III, Section 19 is inapplicable to this case.  (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)

Besides, even if the Bill of Rights were applicable, the fines under R.A. 9275 still cannot be classified as excessive. For a penalty to be considered obnoxious to the Constitution, it needs to be more than merely being harsh, excessive, out of proportion, or severe. To come under the prohibition, the penalty must be flagrantly and plainly oppressive or so disproportionate to the offense committed as to shock the moral sense of all reasonable persons as to what is right and proper under the circumstances. Dela Merced & Sons failed to satisfy these jurisprudential standards. (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)

[Note: In questioning the constitutionality of the fine, Dela Merced & Sons merely alleges that the amount is “exorbitant,” “arbitrary, unconscionable,” and “too excessive as to cause grave impact on the business operations, nay [the] very survival of petitioner as a business entity [and] its employees as a whole.” These unsubstantiated allegations are not enough to strike down the fine as unconstitutional for being excessive. (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)]

[Note: Moreover, Sec. 28 of R.A. 9275 cannot be declared unconstitutional simply because the fine imposed may cause grave impact on Dela Merced & Sons’ business operations. Indeed, the possibility that a law may work hardship does not render it unconstitutional.  (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)]

[Note: Also, it should be noted that the basis for the amount of fine imposed by the PAB and the CA (i.e. ₱10,000 per day of violation) is the minimum imposable amount under the law. Since penalties are prescribed by statute, their formulation is essentially and exclusively legislative. Having no authority to modify the penalties already prescribed, the courts can only interpret and apply them. As held in US. v. Borromeo (23 Phil. 279, 289 (1912), citing McMahon v. State, 70 Neb., 722), “[t]he fixing of penalties for the violation of statutes is primarily a legislative function, and the courts hesitate to interfere, unless the fine provided for is so far excessive as to shock the sense of mankind.” (Republic v. N. dela Merced & Sons, Inc., G.R. No. 201501, January 22, 2018)]

Under the circumstances, where it not for the supervening passage of RA 9346, the proper penalty should be death following Article 266-B of the RPC. Thus, pursuant to Section 2 of the Act, the penalty to be meted out should be reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. (People v. Bauit, G.R. No. 223102, February 14, 2018)

Non-Imprisonment for Debt

As may be gathered from the foregoing, “economic abuse” may include the deprivation of support of a common child of the man-accused and the woman-victim, whether such common child is legitimate or not. This specific act is penalized by Section 5 (e) of RA 9262 xxx. Under this provision (Section 5[e], RA 9262), the deprivation or denial of financial support to the child is considered an act of violence against women and children. Notably, case law instructs that the act of denying support to a child is a continuing offense. (Melgar v. People, G.R. No. 223477, February 14, 2018)

Double Jeopardy

At the outset, it must be stressed that an appeal in criminal cases opens the entire case for review, and it is the duty of the reviewing tribunal to correct, cite, and appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned. (See People v. Dahil, G.R. No. 212196, January 12, 2015, 745 SCRA 221, 233; People v. Patricio, G.R. No.202129, July 23, 2018) The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law. (See People v. Comboy, G.R. No. 218399, March 2, 2016, cited in People v. Alvaro, G.R. No. 225596, January 10, 2018; People v. Jugo, G.R. No. 231792, January 29, 2018; People v. Mamangon, G.R. No. 229102, January 29, 2018; People v. Miranda, G.R. 229671, January 31, 2018; People v. Paz, G.R. No. 229512, January 31, 2018; People v. Guieb, G.R. No. 233100, February 14, 2018; People v. Manasala, G.R. No. 229092, February 21, 2018; People v. Magsano, G.R. No. 231050, February 26, 2018; People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 233744, February 28, 2018; People v. Lumaya, G.R. No. 231983, March 7, 2018; People v. Crispo, G.R. No. 230065, March 14, 2018; People v. Año, G.R. No. 230070, March 14, 2018; Cahulogan v. People, G.R. No. 225695, March 21, 2018; People v. dela Victoria, G.R. No. 233325, April 16, 2018; Reyes v. People, G.R. No. 229380, June 6, 2018; People v. Delociembre, G.R. No. 226485, June 6, 2018; Anyayahan v. People, G.R. No. 229787, June 20, 2018; People v. Mercader, G.R. No. 233480, June 20, 2018; People v. Gamboa, G.R. No. 233702, June 20, 2018; People v. Ejercito, G.R. No. 229861, July 2, 2018; People v. Cordova, G.R. No. 231130, July 9, 2018; Ramos v. People, G.R. No. 233572, July 30, 2018; People v. Cabrellos, G.R. No. 229826, July 30, 2018; People v. Patacsil, G.R. No. 234052, August 6, 2018; People v. Baptista, G.R. No. 225783, August 20, 2018; People v. Feriol, G.R. No. 232154, August 20, 2018)

Accordingly, “errors in an appealed judgment [of a criminal case], even if not specifically assigned, may be corrected motu proprio by the court if the consideration of these errors is necessary to arrive at a just resolution of the case.” The rationale behind this rule stems from the recognition that an accused waives the constitutional safeguard against double jeopardy once he appeals from the sentence of the trial court. As such, it is incumbent upon the appellate court to render such judgment as law and justice dictate, whether it be favorable or unfavorable to him. (People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 229671, January 31, 2018) 

In our jurisdiction, We adhere to the finality-of-acquittal doctrine, that is, a judgment of acquittal is final and unappealable. (People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 223099, January 11, 2018)

The 1987 Constitution guarantees the right of the accused against double jeopardy, thus:

Section 7, Rule 117 of the 1985 and 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure strictly adhere to the constitutional proscription against double jeopardy and provide for the requisites in order for double jeopardy to attach. For double jeopardy to attach, the following elements must concur: (1) a valid information sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction of the crime charged; (2) a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the accused has been arraigned and had pleaded; and (4) the accused was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed without his express consent. 

Here, all the elements were present. There was a valid information for two counts of rape over which the RTC had jurisdiction and to which the accused-appellant entered a plea of not guilty. After the trial, a judgment of acquittal was thereafter rendered and promulgated on July 25, 2011. What is peculiar in this case is that a judgment of acquittal was rendered based on the mistaken notion that the private complainant failed to testify; allegedly because of the mix-up of orders with a different case involving the same accusedappellant. This, however, does not change the fact that a judgment of acquittal had already been promulgated. Indeed, a judgment of acquittal, whether ordered by the trial or the appellate court, is final, unappealable, and immediately executory upon its promulgation. (People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 223099,

January 11, 2018)

The rule on double jeopardy, however, is not without exceptions, which are: (1) Where there has been deprivation of due process and where there is a finding of a mistrial, or (2) Where there has been a grave abuse of discretion under exceptional circumstances. We find that these exceptions do not exist in this case. Here, there was no deprivation of due process or mistrial because the records show that the prosecution was actually able to present their case and their witnesses. A mere manifestation also will not suffice in assailing a judgment of acquittal. A petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules should have been filed. A judgment of acquittal may only be assailed in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules. If the petition, regardless of its nomenclature, merely calls for an ordinary review of the findings of the court a quo, the constitutional right of the accused against double jeopardy would be violated. (People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 223099, January 11, 2018)

[Note: In this case, the acquittal was not even questioned on the basis of grave abuse of discretion. It was only through a supposed mere manifestation of the prosecutor, a copy of which was not in the records, that the RTC was apprised of the supposed mistake it committed. A similar instance had been ruled upon by this Court in Argel v. Judge Pascua (547 Phil. 296 [2007]), where the Judge was sanctioned for gross ignorance of the law for recalling a judgment of acquittal… (People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 223099, January 11, 2018)]

[Note: Similarly, in this case, the RTC was reminded of the fact that private complainant AAA testified during the trial, only after it had already rendered and promulgated the judgment of acquittal. The RTC then realized that had AAA’s testimony been taken into account, the case would have had a different outcome. Consequently, the RTC issued an Order recalling the judgment of acquittal for the purpose of rectifying its error, and thereafter, rendered a Decision convicting the accused-appellant for two counts of rape. This, however, cannot be countenanced for a contrary ruling would transgress the accused-appellant’s constitutionally-enshrined right against double jeopardy. (People v. Alejandro, G.R. No. 223099, January 11, 2018)]

The grant of BBB’s motion to quash may not therefore be viewed as an acquittal, which in limited instances may only be repudiated by a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 upon showing grave abuse of discretion lest the accused would be twice placed in jeopardy. (AAA v. BBB, G.R. No. 212448, January 11, 2018)

It is a hornbook rule that an appeal of a criminal case throws the entire case up for review. It becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct any error that may be found in the appealed judgment, whether assigned as an error or not. Bound by this doctrine, this Court will thus review not just the propriety of appellant’s conviction, but likewise the penalty and monetary award given to the heirs of the victim. (People v. Kalipayan, G.R. No. 229829, January 22, 2018)

All told, the trial court erred in ruling that prosecuting an accused both for rape, under Article 266A(l) of the Revised Penal Code, and sexual abuse, under Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 7610, violates his or her right to double jeopardy. (People v. Udang, G.R. No. 210161, January 10, 2018)

[Note: The provisions show that rape and sexual abuse are two (2) separate crimes with distinct elements. (People v. Udang, G.R. No. 210161, January 10, 2018)]

Therefore, Hilario’s appeal opens the entire case for review by the Court on any question, whether or not the questions were raised by Hilario as accused-appellant and whether they are questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. (People v. Hilario, G.R. No. 210610, January 11, 2018)

Section 24, Rule 119 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure governs the reopening of

criminal cases for further trial. It states in verbatim: “At any time before finality of the judgment of conviction, the judge may, motu proprio or upon motion, with hearing in either case, reopen the proceedings to avoid a miscarriage of justice. The proceedings shall be terminated within thirty (30) days from the order granting it.” (Rivac v. People, G.R. No. 224673, January 22, 2018)

[Note: In this light, the CA clearly erred in holding that: (a) it was improper for the RTC to reopen its proceedings because the latter court had already promulgated its judgment; and (b) assuming arguendo that what it did was a new trial, there were no grounds for its allowance. To reiterate, a motion to reopen may be filed even after the promulgation of a judgment and before the same lapses into finality, and the only guiding parameter is to “avoid the miscarriage of justice.” As such, the RTC correctly allowed the reopening of proceedings to receive Farinas’s subsequent testimony in order to shed light on the true nature of her transaction with Rivac, and potentially, determine whether or not the latter is indeed criminally liable. (Rivac v. People, G.R. No. 224673, January 22, 2018)]

Time and again, it has been held that an appeal in criminal cases opens the entire case for review, and it is the duty of the reviewing tribunal to correct, cite, and appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned. The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law. (Rivac v. People, G.R. No. 224673, January 22, 2018)

In a demurrer to evidence, as in the case of Macapagal-Arroyo, the accused imposes a challenge on the sufficiency of the prosecution’s entire evidence. This involves a determination of whether the evidence presented by the prosecution has established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Should the trial court find the prosecution’s evidence insufficient in this regard, the grant of the demurrer to evidence is equivalent to the acquittal of the accused. (Napoles v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 224162, February 6, 2018)

Furthermore, a grant of the petition would also expose respondent to double jeopardy. Truly, all the elements of double jeopardy are present in respondent‟s case. Under exceptional circumstances, i.e., where there is grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC, double jeopardy will not attach. As stated earlier and ruled by the CA, the dismissal of the case and grant of demurrer were not attended with grave abuse of discretion. (People v. PO1 Johnny K. Sullano,  G.R. No. 228373, March 12, 2018)

In instances where the State has been given every opportunity to present its evidence, yet it failed to do so, it cannot claim to have been deprived of a fair opportunity to present its evidence. Such failure and the resulting dismissal of the case is deemed an acquittal of the accused even if it is the accused who moved for the dismissal of the case. (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018)

[Note: The dismissal of the cases in the February Order, predicated on the violation of the right of accusedappellant to a speedy trial, amounted to an acquittal which bars another prosecution of accused-appellant for the same offense. Thus, when the RTC reconsidered its February Order in its June Order, the RTC placed accused-appellant twice in jeopardy for the same offense and acted with grave abuse of discretion. (People v. Domingo, G.R. No. 204895, March 21, 2018, citing Salcedo v. Mendoza, 177 Phil. 749 [1979])]

Generally, a judgment of acquittal is immediately final and executory. The prosecution cannot appeal the acquittal lest the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy be violated. However, the rule admits of two exceptional grounds that can be challenged in a certiorari proceeding under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court: (1) in a judgment of acquittal rendered with grave abuse of discretion by the court; and (2) where the prosecution had been deprived of due process. (People v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 228494-96, March 21, 2018)

[Note: A cursory reading of the present petition for certiorari demonstrates a prodding to review the judgment of acquittal rendered by the Sandiganbayan on account of grave abuse of discretion. However, though enveloped on a pretext of grave abuse, the petition in actuality aims to overturn the decision of Sandiganbayan due to perceived mistake in the appreciation of facts and evidence. Unfortunately for the petitioner, the correction of this mistake does not fall within the ambit of Rule 65. (People v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 228494-96, March 21, 2018)]

Inasmuch as the court a quos dismissal of the cases was void for having been done with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, it is as if there was no acquittal or dismissal of the cases at all. Hence, double jeopardy does not exist in this case. Besides, it is basic that double jeopardy attaches only when the following elements concur: (1) the accused is charged under a complaint or information sufficient in form and substance to sustain their conviction; (2) the court has jurisdiction; (3) the accused has been arraigned and has pleaded; and (4) he/she is convicted or acquitted, or the case is dismissed without his/her consent. In this case, the order of dismissal was rendered by a court who acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; respondents have not yet been arraigned for their refusal to appear therein, instead they filed a motion to dismiss; and the cases were dismissed at respondents’ instance and thus, with their express consent. (People v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 232197-98, April 16, 2018)

While sourced from the same act, i.e., the issuance of a check subsequently dishonored, estafa and violation of B.P. Blg. 22 are separate and distinct from each other because they pertain to different causes of action. The Court has held that, among other differences, damage and deceit are essential elements for estafa under Article 315 2(d) of the RPC, but are not so for violation under B.P. Blg. 22, which punishes the mere issuance of a bouncing check xxx. (Batac v. People, G.R. No. 191622, June 6, 2018)

Double jeopardy attaches when the following elements concur: (1) a valid information sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction of the crime charged; (2) a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the accused has been arraigned and had pleaded; and (4) the accused was convicted or acquitted, or the case was dismissed without his express consent. The absence of any of the requisites hinders the attachment of the first jeopardy. xxx. As a rule, where the dismissal was granted upon motion of the accused, jeopardy will not attach. In this case, Espeleta’s filing of the urgent motion for reinvestigation did not amount to her express consent. We have held before that the mere filing of a motion for reinvestigation cannot be equated to the accused’s express consent. However, we still find that Espeleta gave her express consent when her counsel did not object to the amendment of the information. As we have held in People v. Pilpa, the dismissal of the case without any objection on the part of the accused is equivalent to the accused’s express consent to its termination, which would bar a claim for violation of the right against double jeopardy xxx. (Rural Bank of Mabitac, Laguna, Inc. v. Canicon, G.R. No. 196015, June 27, 2018)

[Note: Likewise, when the October 23, 2007 Order reinstated the September 17, 2003 Order, the first jeopardy did not attach because it was prompted by Espeleta’s motion for reconsideration of the November 15, 2006 Resolution. (Rural Bank of Mabitac, Laguna, Inc. v. Canicon, G.R. No. 196015, June 27, 2018)]

The rule that the dismissal is not final if it is made upon accused’s motion, of course, admits of exceptions such as: (1) where the dismissal is based on a demurrer to evidence filed by the accused after the prosecution has rested, which has the effect of a judgment on the merits and operates as an acquittal; and (2) where the dismissal is made, also on motion of the accused, because of the denial of his right to a speedy trial which is in effect a failure to prosecute. However, the foregoing are neither applicable nor raised in this case. (Rural Bank of Mabitac, Laguna, Inc. v. Canicon, G.R. No. 196015, June 27, 2018)

Ex Post Facto Laws

Republic Act No. 10951 has since come into effect during the pendency of this case. It likewise specifically stipulates that its provisions shall have retroactive effect. Section 100 adds that this retroactivity applies not only to persons accused of crimes but have yet to be meted their final sentence, but also to those already “serving sentence by final judgment. This retroactivity is in keeping with the principle already contained in Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code that “[p]enal laws shall have a retroactive effect in so far as they favor the person guilty of a felony.” Given these circumstances, it is proper for this Court to adjust the penalty to be imposed on accused-appellant. (People v. Mejares, G.R. No. 225735, January 10, 2018) 

While it is conceded that Rivac committed the crime way before the enactment of RA 10951, the newly-enacted law expressly provides for retroactive effect if it is favorable to the accused, as in this case. (Rivac v. People, G.R. No. 224673, January 22, 2018)

Although the law adjusting the penalties for malversation was not yet in force at the time of the commission of the offense, the Court shall give the new law a retroactive effect, insofar as it favors the accused by reducing the penalty that shall be imposed against him. Essentially, “penal laws shall have a retroactive effect insofar as they favor the person guilty of a felony, who is not a habitual criminal.” (Venezuela v. People, G.R. No. 205693, February 14, 2018)

Citizenship

A Petition for Naturalization must be denied when full and complete compliance with the requirements of Commonwealth Act No. 473 (CA 473), or the Revised Naturalization Law, is not shown. (Republic v. Go Pei Hung, G.R. No. 212785, April 4, 2018)

[Note: The Certificate of Arrival should prove that respondent‟s entry to the country is lawful. Without it, his

Petition for Naturalization is incomplete and must be denied outright. (Republic v. Go Pei Hung, G.R. No. 212785, April 4, 2018, citing Section 7 of CA 473 and Republic v. Judge de la Rosa, 302 Phil. 829)]

[Note: The Declaration of Intention is entirely different from the Certificate of Arrival; the latter is just as important because it proves that the applicant‟s entry to the country was not illegal – that he was a documented alien whose arrival and presence in the country is in good faith and with evident intention to submit to and abide by the laws of the Republic. (Republic v. Go Pei Hung, G.R. No. 212785, April 4, 2018)]

CARLO L. CRUZ

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