Ombudsman vs De Leon (G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013)

Office of the Ombudsman vs De Leon
G.R. No. 154083 February 27, 2013

Facts: Acting on a report of illegal quarrying being committed in the Municipality of Baras, Rizal, Graft Investigation Officer Dante D. Tornilla of the Fact Finding Investigation Bureau (FFIB) of the Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation pursuant to a mission order dated April 17, 1998. On June 8, 1998, Tornilla filed his report to Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, through Assistant Ombudsman Abelardo L. Aportadera, Jr. and Director Agapito B. Rosales, confirming the illegal quarrying. Tornilla recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted against  Baras  Municipal Mayor Roberto Ferrera, Baras Municipal Planning and Coordinator Jonathan Llagas, and property owner Venancio Javier for the probable violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); and that administrative proceedings for violations of the Civil Service Rules be also undertaken. In his report and recommendation dated July 13, 1998, DILG Resident Ombudsman Rudiger G. Falcis II sought the inclusion in the investigation of De Leon as the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) and as concurrently the Chairman of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Rizal. After the preliminary investigation, Graft Investigation Officer II Edgardo V. Geraldez of the FFIB, Office of the Ombudsman, issued a decision dated April 29, 1999, dismissing the complaint against all the respondents for lack of substantial evidence. However, Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. recommended the disapproval of the said decision.  Ombudsman Desierto approved the recommendation of Assistant Ombudsman Aportadera, Jr. The case was then referred to Atty. Sabino M. Cruz, Resident Ombudsman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who ultimately submitted a memorandum on October 20, 1999,  duly approved by the Ombudsman, finding De Leon liable for gross neglect of duty.

Issues: Whether or not respondent is liable for gross neglect of duty.

Whether or not the decisions of the Ombudsman is final and immediately executory.

Held: Yes. Gross neglect of duty or gross negligence “refers to negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but wilfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected. It is the omission of that care that even inattentive and thoughtless men never fail to give to their own property.” It denotes a flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness of a person to perform a duty. In cases involving public officials, gross negligence occurs when a breach of duty is flagrant and palpable.

In contrast, simple neglect of duty means the failure of an employee or official to give proper attention to a task expected of him or her, signifying a “disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference.

Conformably with these concepts, De Leon, given his rank and level of responsibility, was guilty of gross neglect in not performing the act expected of him as the PENRO under the circumstances obtaining. He was precisely assigned to perform tasks that imposed on him the obligation to do everything reasonably necessarily and permissible under the law in order to achieve the objectives of environmental protection. He could not feign ignorance of the Government’s current efforts to control or prevent environmental deterioration from all hazards, including uncontrolled mining and unregulated illegal quarrying, but he chose to be passive despite clear indications of the illegal quarrying activities that had been first brought to his official attention as early as in 1997 by Teresita Fabian of the Provincial Tourism Office of Rizal. The most that he did on the complaint was to dispatch two of his subordinates to verify the report of quarrying. After the subordinates returned with the information that there were no quarrying activities at the site, he was apparently content with their report. He was not even spurred into further action by the subordinates’ simultaneous report on having observed at the site the presence of earthmoving equipment (specifically, a backhoe and a payloader). Had he been conscientious, the presence of the earth moving equipment would have quickly alerted him to the high probability of their being used in quarrying activities at the site. We presume that he was not too obtuse to sense such high probability. The seriousness of the matter should have prodded him to take further actions, including personally inspecting the site himself either to confirm the findings of the subordinates or to satisfy himself that the earthmoving equipment was not being used for quarrying. By merely denying having granted any permit or unwarranted benefit to any quarry operator, he seemingly considered the report of his subordinates satisfactory.

Yes. An appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory. In case the penalty is suspension or removal and the respondent wins such appeal, he shall be considered as having been under preventive suspension and shall be paid the salary and such other emoluments that he did not receive by reason of the suspension or removal.

On 15 September 2003, AO 17 was issued, amending Rule III of the  Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman. Thus, Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman was further amended and now reads:

Section 7. Finality and execution of decision. – Where the respondent is absolved of the charge, and in case of conviction where the penalty imposed is public censure or reprimand, suspension of not more than one month, or a fine equivalent to one month salary, the decision shall be final, executory and unappealable. In all other cases, the decision may be appealed to the Court of Appeals on a verified petition for review under the requirements and conditions set forth in Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the written Notice of the Decision or Order denying the Motion for Reconsideration.

Lepanto vs Lepanto Capataz Union (G.R. No. 157086 February 18, 2013)

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company vs Lepanto Capataz Union
G.R. No. 157086 February 18, 2013

Facts: As a domestic corporation authorized to engage in large-scale mining, Lepanto operated several mining claims in Mankayan, Benguet. On May 27, 1998, respondent Lepanto Capataz Union (Union), a labor organization duly registered with DOLE, filed a petition for consent election with the Industrial Relations Division of the Cordillera Regional Office (CAR) of DOLE, thereby proposing to represent 139 capatazes of Lepanto. In due course, Lepanto opposed the petition, contending that the Union was in reality seeking a certification election, not a consent election, and would be thereby competing with the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU), the current collective bargaining agent. Lepanto pointed out that the capatazes were already members of LEU, the exclusive representative of all rank-and-file employees of its Mine Division.

Issues: Whether or not the filing of a motion for reconsideration on the decision by the DOLE Secretary is a condition precedent in a petition for certiorari.

Whether or not respondent LCU may form a separate union.

Held: Yes. To start with,  the requirement of the timely filing of a motion for reconsideration as a precondition to the filing of a petition for certiorari accords with the principle of exhausting administrative remedies as a means to afford every opportunity to the respondent agency to resolve the matter and correct itself if need be.

And, secondly, the ruling in National Federation of Labor v. Laguesma reiterates St. Martin’s Funeral Home v. National Labor Relations Commission, where the Court has pronounced that the special civil action of certiorari is the appropriate remedy from the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in view of the lack of any appellate remedy provided by the Labor Code to a party aggrieved by the decision of the NLRC. Accordingly, any decision, resolution or ruling of the DOLE Secretary from which the Labor Code affords no remedy to the aggrieved party may be reviewed through a petition for certiorari initiated only in the CA in deference to the principle of the hierarchy of courts.

Yet, it is also significant to note that National Federation of Labor v. Laguesma also reaffirmed the dictum issued in St. Martin’s Funeral Homes v. National Labor Relations Commission to the effect that “the remedy of the aggrieved party is to timely file a motion for reconsideration as a precondition for any further or subsequent remedy, and then seasonably avail of the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65.

Yes. Capatazes or foremen are not rank-andfile employees because they are an extension of the management, and as such they may influence the rank-and-file workers under them to engage in slowdowns or similar activities detrimental to the policies, interests or business objectives of the employers.

The word capataz is defined in Webster’s Third International Dictionary, 1986 as “a boss”, “foreman” and “an overseer”. The employer did not dispute during the hearing that the capatazes indeed take charge of the implementation of the job orders by supervising and instructing the miners, mackers and other rank-and-file workers under them, assess and evaluate their performance, make regular reports and recommends (sic) new systems and procedure of work, as well as guidelines for the discipline of employees. As testified to by petitioner’s president, the capatazes are neither rank-and-file nor supervisory and, more or less, fall in the middle of their rank. In this respect, we can see that indeed the capatazes differ from the rank-and-file and can by themselves constitute a separate bargaining unit.

Dela Cruz vs PPI (G.R. No. 158649 February 18, 2013)

Sps Dela Cruz vs Planters Products Inc.
G.R. No. 158649 February 18, 2013

Facts: Spouses Quirino V. Dela Cruz and Gloria Dela Cruz, petitioners herein, operated the Barangay Agricultural Supply, an agricultural supply store in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija engaged in the distribution and sale of fertilizers and agricultural chemical products, among others. At the time material to the case, Quirino, a lawyer, was the Municipal Mayor of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija. On March 23, 1978, Gloria applied for and was granted by respondent Planters Products, Inc. (PPI) a regular credit line of P200,000.00 for a 60-day term, with trust receipts as collaterals. Quirino and Gloria submitted a list of their assets in support of her credit application for participation in the Special Credit Scheme (SCS) of PPI. On August 28, 1978, Gloria signed in the presence of the PPI distribution officer/assistant sales representative two documents labelled “Trust Receipt/Special Credit Scheme,” indicating the invoice number, quantity, value, and names of the agricultural inputs (i.e., fertilizer or agricultural chemicals) she received “upon the trust” of PPI. Gloria thereby subscribed to specific undertakings.

Issue: Whether or not Gloria can be held liable on the basis of the signed Trust receipt/SCS.

Held: Yes. To be clear, the obligation assumed by Gloria under the Trust Receipt/SCS involved “the execution of a Trust Agreement by the farmer-participants” in her favor, which, in turn, she would assign “in favor of PPI with recourse” in case of delivery and sale to the farmer-participants. The term recourse as thus used means “resort to a person who is secondarily liable after the default of the person who is primarily liable.” An indorsement “with recourse” of a note, for instance, makes the indorser a general indorser, because the indorsement is without qualification. Accordingly, the term with recourse confirms the obligation of a general indorser, who has the same liability as the original obligor. As the assignor “with recourse” of the Trust Agreement executed by the farmer participating in the SCS, therefore, Gloria made herself directly liable to PPI for the value of the inputs delivered to the farmer-participants. Obviously, the signature of the representative of PPI found in the demand letters Gloria sent to the farmer-participants only indicated that the Trust Agreement was part of the SCS of PPI.

The petitioners could not validly justify the non-compliance by Gloria with her obligations under the Trust Receipt/SCS by citing the loss of the farm outputs due to typhoon Kading. There is no question that she had expressly agreed that her liability would not be extinguished by the destruction or damage of the crops. The use of the term with recourse was, in fact, consonant with the provision of the Trust Receipt/SCS stating that if Gloria could not deliver or serve “all the inputs” to the farmer-participants within 60 days, she agreed that “the undelivered inputs will be charged” to her “regular credit line.” Under her arrangement with PPI, the trust receipts were mere securities for the credit line granted by PPI, having in fact indicated in her application for the credit line that the trust receipts were “collaterals” or separate obligations “attached to any other contract to guaranty its performance.

Bordomeo vs CA (G.R. No. 161596 February 20, 2013)

Bordomeo etal vs Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 161596 February 20, 2013

Facts: In 1989, the IPI Employees Union-Associated Labor Union (Union), representing the workers, had a bargaining deadlock with the IPI management. This deadlock resulted in the Union staging a strike and IPI ordering a lockout. On December 26, 1990, after assuming jurisdiction over the dispute, DOLE Secretary Ruben D. Torres rendered hid decision reinstating the illegally dismissed employees with full backwages reckoning from December 8, 1989 and declaring the IPI Employees Union-ALU as the exclusive bargaining agent further directing the parties to enter into a new CBA. A motion for writ of execution was filed. Motion for partial reconsideration was filed by herein petitioners for amendatory/clarifications on the assailed order by DOLE Secretary Torres. Ultimately, on July 4, 2001, DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas issued her Order37 affirming the order issued on March 27, 1998, and declaring that the full execution of the order of March 27, 1998 “completely CLOSED and TERMINATED this case.” Only herein petitioners Roberto Bordomeo, Anecito Cupta, Jaime Sarmiento and Virgilio Saragena assailed the July 4, 2001 order of Secretary Sto. Tomas by petition for certiorari in the CA.

Issues: Whether or not the the special civil action of certiorari is the proper remedy for the petitioners.

Whether or not the petitioners are entitled to separation pay and backwages.

Held: No. Even so, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court still requires the petition for certiorari to comply with the following requisites, namely:  (1) the writ of certiorari is directed against a tribunal, a board, or an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board, or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Jurisprudence recognizes certain situations when the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be deemed proper, such as: (a) when it is necessary to prevent irreparable damages and injury to a party; (b) where the trial judge capriciously and whimsically exercised his judgment; (c) where there may be danger of a failure of justice; (d) where an appeal would be slow, inadequate, and insufficient; (e) where the issue raised is one purely of law; (f) where public interest is involved; and (g) in case of urgency. Yet, a reading of the petition for certiorari and its annexes reveals that the petition does not come under any of the situations. Specifically, the petitioners have not shown that the grant of the writ of certiorari will be necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial justice to them.

In a special civil action for certiorari brought against a court with jurisdiction over a case, the petitioner carries the burden to prove that the respondent tribunal committed not a merely reversible error but a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the impugned order. Showing mere abuse of discretion is not enough, for the abuse must be shown to be grave.  Grave abuse of discretion means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Under the circumstances, the CA committed no abuse of discretion, least of all grave, because its justifications were supported by the history of the dispute and borne out by the applicable laws and jurisprudence.

Yes. Under the circumstances, the employment of the 15 employees or the possibility of their reinstatement terminated by March 15, 1995. Thereafter, their claim for separation pay and backwages beyond March 15, 1995 would be unwarranted. The computation of separation pay and backwages due to illegally dismissed employees should not go beyond the date when they were deemed to have been actually separated from their employment, or beyond the date when their reinstatement was rendered impossible. Anent this, the Court has observed in Golden Ace Builders v. Talde:

The basis for the payment of backwages is different from that for the award of separation pay. Separation pay is granted where reinstatement is no longer advisable because of strained relations between the employee and the employer.  Backwages represent compensation that should have been earned but were not collected because of the unjust dismissal.  The basis for computing backwages is usually the length of the employee’s service while that for separation pay is the actual period when the employee was unlawfully prevented from working.

Clearly then, respondent is entitled to backwages and separation pay as his reinstatement has been rendered impossible due to strained relations. As correctly held by the appellate court, the backwages due respondent must be computed from the time he was unjustly dismissed until his actual reinstatement, or from February 1999 until June 30, 2005 when his reinstatement was rendered impossible without fault on his part.

De Jesus vs Aquino (G.R. No. 164662 February 18, 2013)

De Jesus vs Aquino
G.R. No. 164662 February 18, 2013

Facts: On February 20, 2002, petitioner Ma. Lourdes De Jesus (De Jesus for brevity) filed with the Labor Arbiter a complaint for illegal dismissal against private respondents Supersonic Services Inc., (Supersonic for brevity), Pakistan Airlines, Gil Puyat, Jr. and Divina Abad Santos praying for the payment of separation pay, full backwages, moral and exemplary damages, etc. As Sales Promotion Officer, De Jesus was fully authorized to solicit clients and receive payments for and in its behalf, and as such, she occupied a highly confidential and financially sensitive position in the company; De Jesus was able to solicit several ticket purchases for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) routed from Manila to various destinations abroad and received all payments for the PIA tickets in its behalf. Two memorandum were issued to De Jesus reminding her of her collectibles and her obligation to remit it to Supersonic. Despite the demands, De Jesus still failed to comply causing Supersonic to file a criminal case for Estafa which was countered by the petitioner by filing an illegal dismissal case.

Issues: Whether or not the dismissal of De Jesus is valid.

Whether or not Supersonic complied with the two notice rule required by law.

Held: Yes. Article 282 of the Labor Code enumerates the causes by which the employer may validly terminate the employment of the employee, viz:

Article 282.Termination by employer. – An employer may terminate an employment for any of the following causes:

  1. Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;
  2. Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties;
  3. Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;
  4. Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representatives; and
  5. Other causes analogous to the foregoing.

The CA observed that De Jesus had not disputed her failure to remit and account for some of her collections, for, in fact, she herself had expressly admitted her failure to do so through her letters dated April 5, 2001 and May 15, 2001 sent to Supersonic’s general manager. Thereby, the CA concluded, she defrauded her employer or willfully violated the trust reposed in her by Supersonic. In that regard, the CA rightly observed that proof beyond reasonable doubt of her violation of the trust was not required, for it was sufficient that the employer had “reasonable grounds to believe that the employee concerned is responsible for the misconduct as to be unworthy of the trust and confidence demanded by [her] position.”

No. A careful consideration of the records persuades us to affirm the decision of the CA holding that Supersonic had not complied with the two-written notice rule.

It ought to be without dispute that the betrayal of the trust the employer reposed in De Jesus was the essence of the offense for which she was to be validly penalized with the supreme penalty of dismissal. Nevertheless, she was still entitled to due process in order to effectively safeguard her security of tenure. The law affording to her due process as an employee imposed on Supersonic as the employer the obligation to send to her two written notices before finally dismissing her. This requirement of two written notices is enunciated in Article 277of the Labor Code, as amended, which relevantly states:

Article 277. Miscellaneous provisions.–xxx x x x x

(b) Subject to the constitutional right of workers to security of tenure and their right to be protected against dismissal except for a just and authorized cause and without prejudice to the requirement of notice under Article 283 of this Code, the employer shall furnish the worker whose employment is sought to be terminated a written notice containing a statement of the causes for termination and shall afford the latter ample opportunity to be heard and to defend himself with the assistance of his representative if he so desires in accordance with company rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to guidelines set by the Department of Labor and Employment. Any decision taken by the employer shall be without prejudice to the right of the worker to contest the validity or legality of his dismissal by filing a complaint with the regional branch of the National Labor Relations Commission. The burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause shall rest on the employer. The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment may suspend the effects of the termination pending resolution of the dispute in the event of a prima facie finding by the appropriate official of the Department of Labor and Employment before whom such dispute is pending that the termination may cause a serious labor dispute or is in implementation of a mass lay-off.
x x x x

and in Section 2 and Section 7, Rule I, Book VI of the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code. The first written notice would inform her of the particular acts or omissions for which her dismissal was being sought. The second written notice would notify her of the employer’s decision to dismiss her.  But the second written notice must not be made until after she was given a reasonable period after receiving the first written notice within which to answer the charge, and after she was given the ample opportunity to be heard and to defend herself with the assistance of her representative, if she so desired. The requirement was mandatory.

Metrobank vs Sandoval (G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013)

Metrobank vs Sandoval
G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013

Facts: On July 17, 1987, the Republic brought a complaint for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages in the Sandiganbayan against Andres V. Genito, Jr., Ferdinand E. Marcos, Imelda R. Marcos and other defendants. The action was obviously to recover allegedly ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, their nominees, dummies and agents. Among the properties subject of the action were two parcels of commercial land located in Tandang Sora (Old Balara), Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 266423 and TCT No. 266588 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City registered in the names of Spouses Andres V. Genito, Jr. and Ludivina L. Genito. On February 5, 2001, the Republic moved for the amendment of the complaint in order to implead Asian Bank as an additional defendant. The Sandiganbayan granted the motion. It appears that Asian Bank claimed ownership of the two parcels of land as the registered owner by virtue of TCT No. N-201383 and TCT No. N-201384 issued in its name by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. Asian Bank was also in possession of the properties by virtue of the writ of possession issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City. When the Republic was about to terminate its presentation of evidence against the original defendants in Civil Case No. 0004, it moved to hold a separate trial against Asian Bank.

Issue: Whether or not a motion for separate trial is proper.

Held: No. The rule on separate trials in civil actions is found in Section 2, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Section 2. Separate trials. – The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a separate trial of any claim, crossclaim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.

The text of the rule grants to the trial court the discretion to determine if a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues should be held, provided that the exercise of such discretion is in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice to any party.

Further, Corpus Juris Secundum makes clear that neither party had an absolute right to have a separate trial of an issue; hence, the motion to that effect should be allowed only to avoid prejudice, further convenience, promote justice, and give a fair trial to all parties.

Exceptions to the general rule are permitted only when there are extraordinary grounds for conducting separate trials on different issues raised in the same case, or when separate trials of the issues will avoid prejudice, or when separate trials of the issues will further convenience, or when separate trials of the issues will promote justice, or when separate trials of the issues will give a fair trial to all parties. Otherwise, the general rule must apply.

People vs PO2 Valdez (G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs PO2 Valdez
G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013

Facts: The two accused were tried for three counts of murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 86, in Quezon City. On January 20, 2005, after trial, the RTC convicted them as charged, prescribed on each of them the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, and ordered them to pay to the heirs of each victim P93,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the RTC on July 18, 2006, subject to the modification that each of the accused pay to the heirs of each victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs of suit. The two accused then came to the Court on final appeal, but on May 9, 2007, Edwin Valdez filed a motion to withdraw appeal, which the Court granted on October 10, 2007, thereby deeming Edwin’s appeal closed and terminated. On January 18, 2012, the Court promulgated its judgment on the appeal of PO2 Eduardo Valdez, finding him guilty of three counts of homicide, instead of three counts of murder, and meting on him for each count of homicide the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. Subsequently, Edwin sent to the Court Administrator a self- explanatory letter dated March 12, 2012, where he pleaded for the application to him of the judgment promulgated on January 18, 2012 on the ground that the judgment would be beneficial to him as an accused.

Issue: Whether or not the judgement by the appellate court downgrading the penalty of Edwin’s co-accused is applicable to him.

Held: Yes. On his part, Edwin cannot be barred from seeking the application to him of the downgrading of the crimes committed (and the resultant lighter penalties) despite the finality of his convictions for three counts of murder due to his withdrawal of his appeal. The downgrading of the crimes committed would definitely be favorable to him. Worth pointing out is that to deny to him the benefit of the lessened criminal responsibilities would be highly unfair, considering that this Court had found the two accused to have acted in concert in their deadly assault against the victims, warranting their equal liabiliy under the principle of conspiracy.

We grant Edwin’s plea based on Section 11(a), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, which relevantly provides:

Section 11. Effect of appeal by any of several accused. – (a) An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter.

A literal interpretation of the phrase “did not appeal,” as espoused by private respondent, will not give justice to the purpose of the provision.

It should be read in its entirety and should not be myopically construed so as to defeat its reason, i.e., to benefit an accused who did not join in the appeal of his co-accused in case where the appellate judgment is favorable. In fact, several cases rendered by the Court applied the foregoing provision without regard as to the filing or non-filing of an appeal by a co- accused, so long as the judgment was favorable to him.

People vs Teodoro (G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Teodoro
G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013

Facts: Two informations, both dated March 25, 1998, charged Teodoro with statutory rape. Based on the medical certificate, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Norte charged Teodoro with two counts of statutory rape through the informations. At his arraignment on August 17, 1998, Teodoro pleaded not guilty to the informations. Although he subsequently manifested a willingness to change the pleas to guilty, he balked when he was re-arraigned on December 23, 1998 by qualifying that he had only “fingered” AAA. Accordingly, the RTC reinstated his pleas of not guilty. During the trial, AAA and BBB testified for the Prosecution, but two years later recanted and turned hostile towards the Prosecution, now telling the RTC that Teodoro had only touched AAA’s vagina on the nights of December 18, 1997 and February 8, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the recantation of the victim be considered in determining the penalty of the accused.

Held: No. The crimes charged were two counts of statutory rape. The elements of statutory rape are that: (a) the victim is a female under 12 years or is demented; and (b) the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim. Considering that the essence of statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a female without her consent, neither the use of force, threat or intimidation on the female, nor the female’s deprivation of reason or being otherwise unconscious, nor the employment on the female of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority is necessary to commit statutory rape. Full penile penetration of the female’s genitalia is not likewise required, because carnal knowledge is simply the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman.

In objective terms, carnal knowledge, the other essential element in consummated statutory rape, does not require full penile penetration of the female.  The Court has clarified in People v. Campuhan that the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge. All that is necessary to reach the consummated stage of rape is for the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act to come into contact with the lips of the pudendum of the victim.  This means that the rape is consummated once the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act touches either labia of the pudendum. As the Court has explained in People v. Bali-Balita, the touching that constitutes rape does not mean mere epidermal contact, or stroking or grazing of organs, or a slight brush or a scrape of the penis on the external layer of the victim’s vagina, or the mons pubis, but rather the erect penis touching the labias or sliding into the female genitalia. Accordingly, the conclusion that touching the labia majora or the labia minora of the pudendum constitutes consummated rape proceeds from the physical fact that the labias are physically situated beneath the mons pubis or the vaginal surface, such that for the penis to touch either of them is to attain some degree of penetration beneath the surface of the female genitalia. It is required, however, that this manner of touching of the labias must be sufficiently and convincingly established.

As a rule, recantation is viewed with disfavor firstly because the recantation of her testimony by a vital witness of the State like AAA is exceedingly unreliable, and secondly because there is always the possibility that such recantation may later be repudiated. Indeed, to disregard testimony solemnly given in court simply because the witness recants it ignores the possibility that intimidation or monetary considerations may have caused the recantation. Court proceedings, in which testimony upon oath or affirmation is required to be truthful under all circumstances, are trivialized by the recantation. The trial in which the recanted testimony was given is made a mockery, and the investigation is placed at the mercy of an unscrupulous witness. Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the party adversely affected to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it. The recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand. In that respect, the finding of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons necessitate its re-examination, the reason being that the trial court is in a better position to hear first-hand and observe the deportment, conduct and attitude of the witnesses.

People vs Tapere (G.R. No. 178065 February 20, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Tapere
G.R. No. 178065 February 20, 2013

Facts: At around 7:30 p.m. on September 2, 2002, elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) arrested Tapere for selling shabu to a poseur buyer during a buy-bust operation conducted against him in Purok San Antonio, Iligan City. Prior to the buy-bust operation, Tapere was already included in the PDEA’s drug watch list as a drug pusher based on the frequent complaints made against him by residents of Purok San Antonio, Iligan City. It appears that SPO2 Diosdado Cabahug of the PDEA, a neighbor, had warned Tapere to stop his illegal activities, but he apparently ignored the warning and continued to sell shabu in that locality. Such continuing activity on the part of Tapere was the subject of the report of PDEA informant Gabriel Salgado. An entrapment was executed in order to arrest Tapere in the act of selling shabu while vending lanzones along side Tipanoy. Accused alleged that he was just asked by Salgado to buy the shabu where disobeying him is not an option for him. He further alleged that the way he was arrested was by instigation which is absolutory in nature entitling him to acquittal.

Issue: Whether or not Tapere is liable for the illegal sale of shabu.

Held: Yes To establish the crime of illegal sale of shabu as defined and punished under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, the Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt (a) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the identity of the object and the consideration of the sale; and (b) the delivery of the thing sold and of the payment for the thing. The commission of the offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, like shabu, requires simply the consummation of the selling transaction, which happens at the moment the buyer receives the drug from the seller.  In short, the Prosecution must show that the transaction or sale actually took place, and present in court the thing sold as evidence of the corpus delicti.

Instigation takes place when a peace officer induces a person to commit a crime. Without the inducement, the crime would not be committed. Hence, it is exempting by reason of public policy; otherwise, the peace officer would be a co-principal. It follows that the person instigating must not be a private person, because he will be liable as a principal by inducement. On the other hand, entrapment signifies the ways and means devised by a peace officer to entrap or apprehend a person who has committed a crime. With or without the entrapment, the crime has been committed already. Hence, entrapment is not mitigating. Although entrapment is sanctioned by law, instigation is not. The difference between the two lies in the origin of the criminal intent – in entrapment, the mens rea originates from the mind of the criminal, but in instigation, the law officer conceives the commission of the crime and suggests it to the accused, who adopts the idea and carries it into execution.

Tapere was caught in flagrante delicto committing the illegal sale of shabu during the buy-bust operation. In that operation, Salgado offered to buy from him a definite quantity of shabu for P100.00. Even if, as he claims, he was unaware that Salgado was then working as an undercover agent for the PDEA, he had no justification for accepting the offer of Salgado to buy the shabu.  His explanation that he could not have refused Salgado’s offer to buy for fear of displeasing the latter was implausible. He did not show how Salgado could have influenced him at all into doing something so blatantly illegal. What is clear to us, therefore, is that the decision to peddle the shabu emanated from his own mind, such that he did not need much prodding from Salgado or anyone else to engage in the sale of the shabu; hence, he was not incited, induced, instigated or lured into committing an offense that he did not have the intention of committing.

Diaz vs People (G.R. No. 180677 February 18, 2013)

Diaz vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 180677 February 18, 2013

Facts: Levi Strauss Philippines, Inc. (Levi’s Philippines) is a licensee of Levi’s. After receiving information that Diaz was selling counterfeit LEVI’S 501 jeans in his tailoring shops in Almanza and Talon, Las Piñas City, Levi’s Philippines hired a private investigation group to verify the information. Surveillance and the purchase of jeans from the tailoring shops of Diaz established that the jeans bought from the tailoring shops of Diaz were counterfeit or imitations of LEVI’S 501. Levi’s Philippines then sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for purposes of applying for a search warrant against Diaz to be served at his tailoring shops. The search warrants were issued in due course. Armed with the search warrants, NBI agents searched the tailoring shops of Diaz and seized several fake LEVI’S 501 jeans from them. Levi’s Philippines claimed that it did not authorize the making and selling of the seized jeans; that each of the jeans were mere imitations of genuine LEVI’S 501 jeans by each of them bearing the registered trademarks, like the arcuate design, the tab, and the leather patch; and that the seized jeans could be mistaken for original LEVI’S 501 jeans due to the placement of the arcuate, tab, and two-horse leather patch. Diaz stated that he did not manufacture Levi’s jeans, and that he used the label “LS Jeans Tailoring” in the jeans that he made and sold; that the label “LS Jeans Tailoring” was registered with the Intellectual Property Office; that his shops received clothes for sewing or repair; that his shops offered made-to-order jeans, whose styles or designs were done in accordance with instructions of the customers; that since the time his shops began operating in 1992, he had received no notice or warning regarding his operations; that the jeans he produced were easily recognizable because the label “LS Jeans Tailoring,” and the names of the customers were placed inside the pockets, and each of the jeans had an “LSJT” red tab; that “LS” stood for “Latest Style;” and that the leather patch on his jeans had two buffaloes, not two horses.

Issue: Whether or not Diaz is liable for trademark infringement.

Held: No. Section 155 of R.A. No. 8293 defines the acts that constitute infringement of trademark, viz:

Remedies; Infringement. — Any person who shall, without the consent of the owner of the registered mark:

155.1.  Use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark or the same container or a dominant feature thereof in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, advertising of any goods or services including other preparatory steps necessary to carry out the sale of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; or

155.2.  Reproduce, counterfeit, copy or colorably imitate a registered mark or a dominant feature thereof and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive, shall be liable in a civil action for infringement by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter set forth: Provided, That the infringement takes place at the moment any of the acts stated in Subsection 155.1 or this subsection are committed regardless of whether there is actual sale of goods or services using the infringing material.

The elements of the offense of trademark infringement under the Intellectual Property Code are, therefore, the following:

  • The trademark being infringed is registered in the Intellectual Property Office;
  • The trademark is reproduced, counterfeited, copied, or colorably imitated by the infringer;
  • The infringing mark is used in connection with the sale, offering for sale, or advertising of any goods, business or services; or the infringing mark is applied to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used upon or in connection with such goods, business or services;
  • The use or application of the infringing mark is likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers or others as to the goods or services themselves or as to the source or origin of such goods or services or the identity of such business; and
  • The use or application of the infringing mark is without the consent of the trademark owner or the assignee thereof.

As can be seen, the likelihood of confusion is the gravamen of the offense of trademark infringement. There are two tests to determine likelihood of confusion, namely: the dominancy test, and the holistic test. The contrasting concept of these tests was explained in Societes Des Produits Nestle, S.A. v. Dy, Jr., thus:

x x x. The dominancy test focuses on the similarity of the main, prevalent or essential features of the competing trademarks that might cause confusion. Infringement takes place when the competing   trademark contains the essential features of another.  Imitation or an effort to imitate is unnecessary.  The question is whether the use of the marks is likely to cause confusion or deceive purchasers.

The holistic test considers the entirety of the marks, including labels and packaging, in determining confusing similarity.  The focus is not only on the predominant words but also on the other features appearing on the labels.

The holistic test is applicable here considering that the herein criminal cases also involved trademark infringement in relation to jeans products. Accordingly, the jeans trademarks of Levi’s Philippines and Diaz must be considered as a whole in determining the likelihood of confusion between them. The maong pants or jeans made and sold by Levi’s Philippines, which included LEVI’S 501, were very popular in the Philippines. The consuming public knew that the original LEVI’S 501 jeans were under a foreign brand and quite expensive. Such jeans could be purchased only in malls or boutiques as ready-to-wear items, and were not available in tailoring shops like those of Diaz’s as well as not acquired on a “made-to-order” basis. Under the circumstances, the consuming public could easily discern if the jeans were original or fake LEVI’S 501, or were manufactured by other brands of jeans.

Given the foregoing, it should be plain that there was no likelihood of confusion between the trademarks involved. Thereby, the evidence of guilt did not satisfy the quantum of proof required for a criminal conviction, which is proof beyond reasonable doubt. According to Section 2, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty.  Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. Consequently, Diaz should be acquitted of the charges.