Although a waiver of the right to present evidence by the accused is not a trivial matter to be lightly regarded by the trial court, the filing of the demurrer to evidence without express leave of court operates as a waiver that binds the accused pursuant to the express provision of the Rules of Court.
The information charged the accused, Olivia, being then the teller of Prudential Bank assigned to handle dollar deposits and withdrawals, with qualified theft. It was alleged that accused was entrusted with cash and other accountabilities, with grave abuse of trust and confidence reposed upon her by her employer, with intent to gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, took cash money amounting to $10,000.00, belonging to the Prudential Bank, Angeles Main Branch.
After the accused pleaded not guilty at arraignment.
Upon the State resting its case against the accused, her counsel filed a Demurrer to Evidence and Motion to Defer Defense Evidence, praying for the dismissal of the charge on the ground that the evidence of the State did not suffice to establish her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the RTC denied the Demurrer to Evidence and Motion to Defer Defense Evidence on the basis that her filing her demurrer to evidence without express leave of court as required by Section 15, Rule 119, of the Rules of Court had waived her right to present evidence.
The RTC rendered its decision finding and pronouncing the accused guilty of qualified theft.
The accused appealed, but the CA affirmed her conviction, albeit modifying the penalty.
Whether the RTC correctly found that the accused had waived her right to present evidence in her defense
We deny the petition for review and affirm the CA’s decision.
The CA and RTC did not err in deeming petitioner to have waived her right to present evidence.
The rule in point is Section 15, Rule 119, of the Revised Rules of Court, viz:
Section 15. Demurrer to evidence. After the prosecution has rested its case, the court may dismiss the case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence: (1) on its own initiative after giving the prosecution an opportunity to be heard; or (2) on motion of the accused filed with prior leave of court.
If the court denies the motion for dismissal, the accused may adduce evidence in his defense. When the accused files such motion to dismiss without express leave of court, he waives the right to present evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the prosecution.
Under the rule, the RTC properly declared the accused to have waived her right to present evidence because she did not obtain the express leave of court for her demurrer to evidence, thereby reflecting her voluntary and knowing waiver of her right to present evidence. The RTC did not need to inquire into the voluntariness and intelligence of the waiver, for her opting to file her demurrer to evidence without first obtaining express leave of court effectively waived her right to present her evidence.
It is true that the Court has frequently deemed the failure of the trial courts to conduct an inquiry into the voluntariness and intelligence of the waiver to be a sufficient cause to remand cases to the trial courts for the purpose of ascertaining whether the accused truly intended to waive their constitutional right to be heard, and whether they understood the consequences of their waivers.
The accused and her counsel should not have ignored the potentially prejudicial consequence of the filing of a demurrer to evidence without the leave of court required in Section 15, Rule 119, of the Revised Rules of Court. They were well aware of the risk of a denial of the demurrer being high, for by demurring the accused impliedly admitted the facts adduced by the State and the proper inferences therefrom. We cannot step in now to alleviate her self-inflicted plight, for which she had no one to blame but herself; otherwise, we may unduly diminish the essence of the rule that gave her the alternative option to waive presenting her own evidence.