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April 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

1. REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy; conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused-appellants before, during
and after the commission of the crime which indubitably point to a joint purpose, concerted
action and community of interest. Spouses Betty and Monico were among the ten accused
convicted by the trial court for kidnapping a certain Albert Yam for ransom. Although Betty and
Monico did not participate in actually abducting Albert, it was in their abandoned house where
Albert was brought to by the eight other accused. Also, Betty and Monico twice visited the
safehouse where Albert was brought, with Betty serving food for Albert and Monico assisting
the latter in climbing up and down the stairs. The Supreme Court considered them as co-
conspirators. In a conspiracy to commit the crime of kidnapping for ransom, the place where the
victim is to be detained is logically a primary consideration. In the case of Betty and Monico, it
can be reasonably inferred that the house fitted the purpose of the kidnappers. Albert’s detention
was accomplished not solely by reason of the restraint exerted upon him by the presence of
guards in the safehouse, but by the circumstance of being put in a place where escape became
highly improbable. In other words, Betty and Monico were indispensable in the kidnapping of
Albert because they knowingly and purposely provided the venue to detain Albert. The spouses’
ownership of the safehouse, Monico’s presence therein during Albert’s arrival on the evening of
April 7, 2002 and Betty’s visits to bring food reasonably indicate that they were among those
who at the outset planned·, and thereafter concurred with and participated in the execution of the
criminal design. The conviction of Betty and Monico was affirmed. People of the Philippines v.
Betty Salvador y Tabios, et al, G.R. No. 201443, April 10, 2013.

Rape; the accused may be convicted solely on the basis of the testimony of the victim. The
accused was charged and convicted for raping his 13-year old daughter. On appeal, the accused
reiterated his defense that the testimony of the victim was highly incredible and illogical. The
Supreme Court disagreed with the contention of the accused. The victim was able to describe in
detail how accused mounted her, undressed her, and successfully penetrated her against her will,
one night in April 1998. The testimony being frank, probable, logical and conclusive, the Court
gave credence to it. There is a plethora of cases which tend to disfavor the accused in a rape case
by holding that when a woman declares that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is
necessary to show that rape has been committed and, where her testimony passes the test of
credibility, the accused can be convicted on the basis thereof. Furthermore, the Court has
repeatedly declared that it takes a certain amount of psychological depravity for a young woman
to concoct a story which would put her own father to jail for the rest of his remaining life and
drag the rest of the family, including herself, to a lifetime of shame. For this reason, courts are
inclined to give credit to the straightforward and consistent testimony of a minor victim in
criminal prosecutions for rape. Hence, the Supreme Court sustained the conviction of the
accused. People of the Philippines v. Edmundo Vitero, G.R. No. 175327, April 3, 2013.

Robbery with homicide; all felonies committed by reason of or on the occasion of the robbery
are integrated into felony of robbery with homicide. The accused were charged with the crime of
robbery with homicide, after accosting sisters AA and BB along a street in Olongapo City one
evening, taking the bag of AA which contained money and fatally stabbing BB. On appeal, the
accused argued that robbery was not sufficiently proved and that they should only be convicted
for homicide. The Supreme Court ruled that in robbery with homicide, the original criminal
design of the malefactor is to commit robbery, with homicide perpetrated on the occasion or by
reason of the robbery. The intent to commit robbery must precede the taking of human life. The
homicide may take place before, during or after the robbery. It is only the result obtained,
without reference or distinction as to the circumstances, causes or modes or persons intervening
in the commission of the crime that has to be taken into consideration. The actions of the three
accused, from the deprivation of the AA of her personal belongings by one of the accused to the
stabbing of the victim BB by the other two accused are clear and indubitable proofs of a
concerted effort to deprive AA and BB of their personal belongings, and that by reason or on the
occasion of the said robbery, stabbed and killed victim BB. People of the Philippines v. Welvin
Diu y Kotsesa, et al., G.R. No. 201449, April 3, 2013.

Self-defense; no self-defense where there is no unlawful aggression. The accused alleged that he
stabbed the victim out of self-defense, i.e., after the latter took hold of a soldering iron, but was
nonetheless convicted for the crime of homicide. That the victim indeed attempted to attack him
using the soldering iron was however belied by two witnesses of the prosecution. The Supreme
Court did not give credence to the allegation of self-defense and affirmed his conviction. For the
first element of unlawful aggression to be present, jurisprudence dictates that there must be an
actual physical assault, or at least a threat to inflict real imminent injury, upon a person. It
presupposes actual, sudden, unexpected or imminent danger — not merely threatening and
intimidating action. It is present only when the one attacked faces real and immediate threat to
one’s life. Having failed to prove that the victim attacked him with the soldering iron, the
accused cannot be said to have acted in self-defense when he stabbed the victim. Sergio Sombol
v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 194564, April 10, 2013.

2. SPECIAL PENAL LAWS

P.D. 1612 (Anti-Fencing Law); presentation of sales invoice or receipt provides proof of a
legitimate transaction which is disputable. The accused was charged with violation of P.D. 1612,
otherwise known as the Anti-Fencing Law, after he was found, in a buy-bust operation, to have
possessed 13 of the 38 Firestone tires stolen from the owner AA. In his defense, accused alleged
that he bought the tires from a certain store named Gold Link, as evidenced by a sales invoice
issued in his name. The Supreme Court ruled that the defense of legitimate transaction is
disputable and has in fact been disputed in this case. The validity of the issuance of the receipt
was disputed, and the prosecution was able to prove that Gold Link and its address were
fictitious. Ong failed to overcome the evidence presented by the prosecution and to prove the
legitimacy of the transaction. Thus, he was unable to rebut the prima facie presumption under
section 5 of P.D. 1612. Jaime Ong y Ong v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 190475, April
10, 2013.

R. A. 6426; Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972; the crime of unlawful sale of marijuana necessarily
includes the crime of unlawful possession thereof. The accused invoked on appeal his
constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him because
the trial court convicted him for the crime of unlawful possession of marijuana under section 8 of
R.A. 6426, although the information had charged him for unlawful sale of marijuana under
section 4 of R.A. 6426. The Supreme Court held that the crime of illegal sale of marijuana
implied prior possession of the marijuana. As such, the crime of illegal sale included or absorbed
the crime of illegal possession. The right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of
the accusation against him was not violated simply because the information had precisely
charged him with selling, delivering, giving away and distributing more or less 750 grams of
dried marijuana leaves. Thus, he had been sufficiently given notice that he was also to be held to
account for possessing more or less 750 grams of dried marijuana leaves. People of the
Philippines v. Chad Manansala y Lagman, G.R. No. 175939, April 3, 2013.

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drugs Law; chain of custody must be proved for a charge of illegal sale
of dangerous drugs to succeed. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction of the accused where
the prosecution failed to prove the chain of custody of the dangerous drugs alleged to have been
sold by the accused to the poseur buyer. Although the police officer testified that he had marked
the sachet of shabu with his own initials following arrest of the accused, he did not explain,
either in his court testimony or in the joint affidavit of arrest, whether his marking had been done
in the presence of the accused, or done immediately upon the arrest of the accused. Nor did he
show by testimony or otherwise who had taken custody of the sachet of shabu after he had done
his marking, and who had subsequently brought the sachet of shabu to the police station, and,
still later on, to the laboratory. Given the possibility of just anyone bringing any quantity of
shabu to the laboratory for examination, there is now no assurance that the quantity presented
here as evidence was the same article that had been the subject of the sale by the accused. The
indeterminateness of the identities of the individuals who could have handled the sachet of shabu
after the police officer’s marking broke the chain of custody, and tainted the integrity of the
shabu ultimately presented as evidence to the trial court. People of the Philippines v. Alberto
Gonzales y Santos aka Takyo, G.R. No. 182417, April 3, 2013.

R.A. No. 9165; Dangerous Drugs Law; presence of the barangay captain or any elected official
not required during the buy-bust operation, but only during the physical inventory conducted
immediately thereafter. The accused argued on appeal that the trial court failed to consider the
procedural flaws committed by the arresting officers in the seizure and custody of drugs as
embodied in Section 21, paragraph 1, Article II, of R.A. 9165. Among others, accused alleged
that the barangay captain, was not present during the alleged buy-bust operation. He was only
asked to sign the inventory of the seized items shortly after his arrival at the scene of the buy-
bust operation. Thus, he has no personal knowledge as to whether the drugs allegedly seized
from the accused were indeed recovered from them. The Supreme Court ruled that it is enough
that the barangay captain is present during the physical inventory immediately conducted after
the seizure and confiscation of the drugs and he signs the copies of the inventory and is given a
copy thereof. Also, the barangay captain, not only positively identified both accused, but also
identified the items contained in the inventory receipt. Such testimony clearly established
compliance with the requirement of Section 21with regard to the presence and participation of
the elected public official. People of the Philippines v. Gerry Octavio y Florendo and Reynaldo
Cariño y Martir, G.R. No. 199219, April 3, 2013.

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drugs Law; where noncompliance of the chain of custody rule is justified.
The accused argued that the chain of custody of the illegal drug, which was confiscated upon her
arrest, was not strictly followed. Specifically, the illegal drug was marked only in the police
station, not in the place where the buy-bust operation took place. The prosecution explained that
the police officers did not have the opportunity to mark the illegal drug in the place where
accused was arrested because the latter had become hysterical and had caused a commotion. The
Supreme Court ruled that while the procedural guidelines laid out in section 21(1), Article II of
R.A. 9165 were not strictly complied with, the integrity and the evidentiary value of the illegal
drugs used in evidence in this case were duly preserved in consonance with the chain of custody
rule. The arresting officer was justified in marking the seized plastic sachet of shabu at the police
station, instead of at the scene of the buy-bust operation because he had no choice but to
immediately extricate himself and the accused from the crime scene in order to forestall a
potentially dangerous situation. Thereafter, the arresting officer turned the illegal drug over to
the investigating officer, who then had it tested in the Crime Laboratory Office of the Manila
Police District. Substantial compliance with the procedural aspect of the chain of custody rule
does not necessarily render the seized drug items inadmissible. The conviction of the accused
was affirmed. People of the Philippines v. Lolita Quesido y Badarang, G.R. No. 189351, April
10, 2013.

R.A. 9165; Dangerous Drugs Law; where seized items deemed admissible in evidence despite
failure of arresting officers to comply strictly with the procedural requirements relative to the
seizure and custody of the drugs. The accused argued on appeal that the trial court failed to
consider the procedural flaws committed by the arresting officers in the seizure and custody of
drugs as embodied in section 21, paragraph 1, Article II, of R.A. 9165. Among others, accused
allege that no photograph was taken of the items seized from them. In dismissing the appeal of
the accused, the Supreme Court held that even if the arresting officers failed to take a photograph
of the seized drugs as required, such procedural lapse is not fatal and will not render the items
seized inadmissible in evidence. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity
and evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of
the guilt or innocence of the accused. For as long as the chain of custody remains unbroken, as in
this case, even though the procedural requirements provided for in section 21 of R.A. No. 9165
was not faithfully observed, the guilt of the accused will not be affected. People of the
Philippines v. Gerry Octavio y Florendo and Reynaldo Cariño y Martir, G.R. No. 199219, April
3, 2013.

3. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

Appellate review; the trial court’s factual findings are accorded great respect and even
conclusive effect; these factual findings and conclusions assume greater weight if they are
affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The accused were charged with the crime of robbery with
homicide, after accosting sisters AA and BB along a street in Olongapo City one evening, taking
the bag of AA which contained money and fatally stabbing BB. On appeal, the accused attacked
the credibility of AA as a witness by citing the alleged inconsistencies in her testimony. In
finding against the accused, the Supreme Court reiterated the doctrine that findings of the trial
court on such matters involving the credibility of witnesses cannot be disturbed on appeal unless
some facts or circumstances of weight have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted
so as to materially affect the disposition of the case. AA is more than just an eyewitness, she is a
surviving victim of the crime. Her testimony, as described by the RTC, was “categorical and
straightforward.” AA had positively identified all the accused. There is therefore no reason to
disturb the factual findings of the trial court. People of the Philippines v. Welvin Diu y Kotsesa,
et al., G.R. No. 201449, April 3, 2013.

Information; aggravating and qualifying circumstances must be alleged. In this case, accused was
convicted by the trial court for carnapping with homicide, aggravated by the circumstance that
the offense was committed by a member of an organized or syndicated crime group under Article
62 of the Revised Peanal Code, as amended by RA 7659, although the said aggravating
circumstance was not alleged in the information. As a result, on appeal, the Supreme Court held
that since there is no allegation in the information that accused was a member of a syndicate or
that he and his companions “had formed part of a group organized for the general purpose of
committing crimes for gain, which is the essence of a syndicated or organized crime group,” the
same cannot be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance against him. The Supreme Court
thus modified the judgment by not considering the said aggravating circumstance. People of the
Philippines v. Arnel Nocum, et al, G.R. No. 179041, April 1, 2013.

Information; aggravating and qualifying circumstances must be alleged. Under Rule 110, Section
8 of the Rules of Court, all aggravating and qualifying circumstances must be alleged in the
information. This new rule took effect on December 1, 2000, but applies retroactively to pending
cases since it is favorable to the appellant. People of the Philippines v. Arnel Nocum, et al, G.R.
No. 179041, April 1, 2013.

Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; requirements under R.A. No. 6981. A certain
Kenny Dalandag was admitted into the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice
(DOJ) under R.A. 6981, otherwise known as The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act,
in connection with the prosecution of the crime of murder filed against 196 accused in what
became aptly known as the Maguindanao massacre. Petitioner, one of the accused, wrote to
respondent Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima and Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard
Fadullon to request the inclusion of Dalandag in the informations for murder considering that
Dalandag had already confessed his participation in the massacre through his two sworn
declarations. After the DOJ denied his request, petitioner filed a case for mandamus seeking to
compel respondents to include Dalandag in the informations. The RTC denied the petition. In
affirming the decision of the RTC, the Supreme Court held that there is no requirement under
R.A. 6981 for the prosecution to first charge a person in court as one of the accused in order for
him to qualify for admission into the Witness Protection Program. The admission as a state
witness under R.A. 6981 also operates as an acquittal, and said witness cannot subsequently be
included in the criminal information except when he fails or refuses to testify. The immunity for
the state witness is granted by the DOJ, not by the trial court. Should such witness be meanwhile
charged in court as an accused, the public prosecutor, upon presentation to him of the
certification of admission into the Witness Protection Program, shall petition the trial court for
the discharge of the witness. The Court shall then order the discharge and exclusion of said
accused from the information. Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr. v. Sec. Leila De Lima, as Secretary of
the Department of Justice, et al, G.R. No. 197291, April 3, 2013.